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Posts Tagged ‘Ara Shirinyan

Attention Span 2010 – Michael S. Hennessey

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CAConrad and Frank Sherlock | The City Real and Imagined: Philadelphia Poems | Factory School | 2010

I make no secret of the fact that I’m more or less constantly homesick for my hometown, and so having that city so faithfully rendered by two of my favorite poets (and two of my favorite people) is a true pleasure. It’s not just the broad vistas, the idiosyncratic details, the full sensory overload that I love here, but also the dialogic texture, the way the grain of each strong voice plays off of one another. I feel a full, Whitmanesque sense of camaraderie in The City Real and Imagined—the strong, time-tested friendship between two great minds—and their shared love for the city they call home.

John Giorno | Subduing Demons in America: Selected Poems 1962-2007 | Soft Skull | 2008

For the past year or so I’ve been working on a critical essay on John Giorno (for an anthology Routledge is putting out in early 2011), and while my focus there is primarily on Giorno Poetry Systems’ various technological innovations—from the early Electronic Sensory Poetry Environments through Dial-A-Poem to the record releases (which, obviously, have a great influence on the work I do at PennSound)—I was very happy to reconnect with Giorno’s written work, particularly his stunning early appropriative poetry, which is well represented here. Editor Marcus Boon has done a tremendous job assembling a lengthy and detailed testament to Giorno’s writing life, and his thoughtful biographic introduction gives readers a solid foundation with which to approach the work.

Félix Fénéon, trans. by Luc Sante | Novels in Three Lines | NYRB | 2007

I found this by accident on the clearance shelves, drawn in by the distinctive NYRB design and a description intriguing enough to convince me it was worth two dollars. In this case, two dollars buys you a stunning mosaic of life in France circa 1906 delivered through a thousand or so über-brief news items Fénéon wrote for Le Matin’s “Nouvelles en Trois Lignes” column. Aside from echoes of Reznikoff (Sante cites Testimony in his intro, however his early poems of the street also have a similar resonance), I felt something reminiscent of Joe Brainard’s I Remember or certain catalogue pieces by Perec: a certain pleasant lull as the language rushes over you, counteracted here by the visceral content itself. Life is truly nasty, brutish and short, as evidenced by the constant presence of death (whether murder, suicide, accident or old age) and the living don’t get off much easier: strikers are pummeled, alms stolen, mayors fired for displaying the crucifix. The media-driven fetishization of violence feels downright contemporary, however Fénéon’s deft use of language—building anticipation through fruitful deferral and displaying a wicked sense of humor—keeps the proceedings from becoming a shallow horror show.

Aaron Kunin | The Sore Throat & Other Poems | Fence | 2010

Sometimes text and setting go together too well. By lucky happenstance, I brought The Sore Throat along as reading material for a dinnertime flight, and the claustrophobic and overheated puddlejumper became the perfect place to read the book cover to cover, its restricted vocabulary and dizzying recursivity greatly augmented by the stale air and a dull headache. It’s hard to imagine reading the book under other circumstances, and I keep my boarding pass tucked tight between its pages as a memento. Kunin finds great emotion in machine language; he draws us in and guides us along, toys with our expectations, surprises us with a simple word’s glittering multiple facets.

David Sheppard | On Some Faraway Beach: the Life and Times of Brian Eno | Orion | 2009

While it’s not likely to dethrone my all-time favorite music bio, David Bowman’s marvelous This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century (a book that it seems I reread in fits and spurts at least once a year), On Some Faraway Beach shares many of the characteristics that make that volume so appealing: primarily an engaging, novelistic approach to the narrative, a skillful weaving together of myriad voices and sources, and rich contextualization that firmly situates Eno and his work within their historical milieu. Sheppard makes all the right decisions in terms of scope and detail, particularly in regards to including copious technical discussion of Eno’s compositional and production work, and he wisely chooses to speed through the last two decades or so, devoting most of the book to Eno’s collaborations with Roxy Music, Robert Fripp, David Bowie, Devo, Talking Heads, and, of course, his highly-influential early solo output. This book got me through the bleak expanse of early January and I was genuinely disappointed to come to the end.

Ben Lerner | Mean Free Path | Copper Canyon | 2010

Following Ben Lerner’s development over the course of his first three books reminds me of the true joy one feels watching a preternaturally-talented young baseball player—say, for example, Chase Utley—come into his own, and Mean Free Path certainly fulfills the promise of his earlier output. In theory, every book contains instructions for its own consumption, but I’ve rarely been so happily conscious of a text’s gentle nurturing, especially as its dense early obfuscation gives way to an increasing momentum and energy as pages fly by and scattered clues come together. I had the pleasure of teaching this book at the end of the spring term, and watching my students, who’d cut their teeth on Rae Armantrout, Harryette Mullen, Bill Berkson and Adrienne Rich (among others), work their way through Lerner’s intricate poetic geometry, stitching together storylines and motifs, was a marvelous experience.

Maggie Nelson | Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions | Iowa | 2007 and Bluets | Wave  | 2009

I have Cathy Wagner to thank for my long-overdue introduction to Maggie Nelson: she recommended the poet’s wonderful critical volume on the New York School to my partner at dinner one night, and Jennifer made a Christmas present of it. Through MLA bleakness and tiring holiday travel, it was a charming and insightful companion (and as Cathy promised, much like Sheppard’s Eno bio, it reads like a great novel), and my interest was sufficiently piqued to move on to her poetry. As for Bluets, it’s very likely my favorite book of the year—a breathtakingly ambitious work that crosses genres and disciplines as it explores its enigmatically ambiguous topic, the color blue and all its implications. Flipping what turned out to be the last page and finding nothing else produced a physical sensation of loss, deep in the pit of my stomach, that I’m not soon to forget.

Ara Shirinyan | Your Country Is Great | Futurepoem | 2008

Like any great piece of conceptual art, Your Country Is Great instantly fills you with regret for not having been clever enough to come up with so simple, yet powerful an idea. For all the endearing cosmopolitan heterogeneity here, what surprises me is the somewhat consistent voice that emerges—Shirinyan’s authorial selectivity, perhaps, but it’s also the din of internet chatter that surrounds us constantly, and from which his Google-driven compositions are hewn, warts and all. What I love most, particularly for the way they serve as brief and necessary pauses as the work unfolds, are the Brautigan-esque poems that consist of titles alone, and yet these are also the book’s saddest moments: nobody had anything great to say about Burkina Faso or Equitorial Guinea?

More Michael S. Hennessey here. His Attention Span for 2009. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Cathy Wagner

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Aaron Kunin | The Sore Throat | Fence | 2010

Radical constraint. Self-reflexive to the point of wilderness.

Hoa Nguyen | Hecate Lochia | Hot Whiskey | 2009

Technique!

Laynie Browne | The Desires of Letters | Counterpath | 2010

You don’t go to poetry for wisdom? When it’s funny? And formally brilliant? And aware that tradition will stick its nose in? So it picks that nose and that pocket?

Stephen Rodefer | Call It Thought | Carcanet | 2008

“Then I stand up on my hassock and say sing that, / It is not the business of poetry to be anything.” Astonishing playful poetic know-how flung around as if it might hurt somebody. Call it ambulance.

Andrea Brady | Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination | Krupskaya | 2010

Brave and erudite. Documentary precision, passionate correlation. How do we make war out of ourselves? “What would make you throw yourself out?”

Ted Greenwald | 3 | Cuneiform | 2008

Iteration strummed to song. Say it again, Ted.

Brenda Iijima | If Not Metamorphic | Ahsahta | 2010

It’s trying to be adequate to the bio-crisis. Formally ambitious, absurdly sane.

Lance Phillips | These Indicium Tales | Ahsahta | 2010

Visceral detail: a phenomenology. “One purses fingers and lips to form a membrane.”

Akilah Oliver | A Toast in the House of Friends | Coffee House | 2009

Everything I want to quote from this book feels irritatingly depressurized when extracted from its spinning, oblique, humorous gravitas, but let’s try “this is a happy story but first i want to tell you about the shape of the incredible sadness. a porn movie you volunteer for. unpaid. untended. the sadness has that shape.”

Ara Shirinyan | Your Country is Great: Afghanistan–Guyana | Futurepoem | 2008

Funny as a crutch. As they say.

Daniel Kane | We Saw the Light: Conversations Between the New American Cinema and Poetry | Iowa | 2009

Fascinating on visionary consciousness, formal innovation, and the mutually influential connections between Duncan, O’Hara, Ashbery, Ginsberg, others and radical postwar filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Alfred Leslie, Stan Brakhage, others.

More Cathy Wagner here. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2009 – Harold Abramowitz

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Allison Carter | A Fixed, Formal Arrangement | Les Figues Press | 2009

Ara Shirinyan | Handsome Fish Offices | Insert Press | 2008

Carlos Blackburn | Selected Poems of Hamster | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2008

C.J. Martin | Lo, Bittern | Atticus Finch | 2008

Deborah Meadows | Goodbye Tissues | Shearsman | 2009

Dolores Dorantes | SEXOPUROSEXOVELOZ And SEPTIEMBRE | Kenning Editions-Counterpath Press | 2008

Jane Sprague, ed. | Palm Press | 2008-2009

K. Lorraine Graham | Terminal Humming | Edge Books | 2009

Kim Rosenfield | re: evolution | Les Figues Press | 2009

Kyle Schlesinger, Thom Donovan and Michael Cross, eds. | ON Contemporary Practice 1 | Cuneiform Press | 2008

Mairéad Byrne | Example As Figure | Ubu Editions – Publishing The Unpublishable | 2008

Mathew Timmons | Lip Service | Slack Buddha Press | 2009

Matthew Klane | Sons and Followers | Matthew Klane | 2009

Rosa Alcalá, Ash Smith, Sasha Steensen | UNDOCUMENTARY, Water Shed, The Future Of An Illusion | Dos Press | 2009

Stan Apps | Grover Fuel | Scantily Clad Press | 2009

Stephanie Rioux | Sticks | Mindmade Books | 2009

The Pines | “Peek thru the pines” | thepines.blogspot.com | 2008-2009

More Harold Abramowitz here.

Attention Span – K. Silem Mohammad

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Jasper Bernes | Starsdown | ingirumimusnocteetcomsumimurigni | 2007

A dazzling book of poetry that achieves the experiential inventiveness and elaborative density of a novel without sacrificing its lyric autonomy.

Joe Brainard | The Nancy Book | Siglio | 2008

A much-anticipated event, heightened even further for me by getting to see the exhibit at Colby College, Maine, at which many of these works were on display, earlier this summer.

Jack Collom | Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955–2000 | Tuumba | 2001

I wrote about Collom’s wonderful collaboration with Lyn Hejinian, Situations, Sings (Adventures in Poetry 2008) earlier this year for The Constant Critic. That book could easily have gone on this list as well. But I want to draw attention to this indispensable collection, which I picked up in June at Naropa, where Collom performs poetic miracles on a regular basis.

Patrick Durgin and Jen Hofer | The Route | Atelos | 2008

We’ve had a windfall of engrossing poetic memoirs and epistolary exchanges lately by Jennifer Moxley, Juliana Spahr, Bernadette Mayer and Bill Berkson, and others. Here’s another vibrant chronicle of the contemporary, in which two razor-sharp poets’ minds use each other as theoretical, political, and aesthetic sounding boards, and in so doing reveal the moving, living mechanisms that sustain a deep friendship.

Jennifer Knox | Drunk By Noon | Bloof | 2007

Knox is one of the few poets I can think of who still writes with great success in the familiar mode of the “dramatic monologue”: she makes it work partly by inhabiting its conventions like a kind of squatter and vandalizing them from the inside out, rendering the form unfit for occupancy by anyone else thereafter. Alternately and/or simultaneously sensitive, mean, elegant, smart, stoopid, and most of all, funny.

Jackson Mac Low | Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works | California | 2008

The title says it all.

Sharon Mesmer | Annoying Diabetic Bitch | Combo Books | 2007

This book is like cherry-flavored anthrax in a Pixie Stix straw. Mesmer breaks all the rules of decorum, craft, and form—she even invents some new rules just to break them. I would like to see her and Jennifer Knox have a poetic slapdown in a big hockey arena somewhere. My guess is that it would end in a tie with the audience dead from hemorrhaging.

Sianne Ngai | Ugly Feelings | Harvard UP | 2005

Incisive takes on Melville, Stein, Hitchcock, Bruce Andrews, Nella Larsen, and much more. A key text for entering into many of the most lively and controversial discussions in poetics over the last few years.

Alice Notley | In the Pines | Penguin |2007

Dark, uncomfortable, haunting dream-speech. Recalls for me Spicer’s medium-like approach in works like Heads of the Town Up to the Ether.

Ara Shirinyan | Your Country Is Great: Afghanistan–Guyana | Futurepoem | 2008

Not Flarf, but that more “conceptual” vein of Google-collage practiced very interestingly in various ways by writers like Linh Dinh, Juliana Spahr, and Rob Fitterman. Shirinyan’s text does court flarfiness, however, with its inclusion of many of the unedited, offensive, and sometimes just silly things that turn up in searches for web text containing the phrase “[name of country] is great” (“Guam is great. really it is / shit, this is the place where i / found myself”). The minimal amount of shaping Shirinyan performs (mostly adding line and stanza breaks, I think) is just enough to induce that uncanny “subjectivity effect” which is one of the things that makes reading the book so compelling.

Various Authors | DRUNK |  ongoing

A lot of the poetry these days that I find the freshest and most full of expressive innovation happens on this blog and its outlying zones. The all-caps convention is really just a surface device that (along with the alcohol, one imagines) enables invention—although the monotone “shouting” effect does convey a sort of defamiliarized emotive urgency.

Attention Span – Stan Apps

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Roberto Bolaño | The Savage Detectives | Picador | 2007

I read it too, and it’s as good as they say. The best conventional novel about avant-gardism ever!

Martha Dandridge Custis, with afterword by Abigail Smith | Comment is Free: Participatory Politics for a New Age | Lil’ Norton | 2008

A fine study of free speech of the comment box variety, tonic for all of us who think that dictators are usually good for the first 14 months and that the Bush family should not be allowed to procreate. Because this book tackles the most important issues of our time, it naturally does not matter; we are reminded that, in these times of crisis, there is nothing so idle as to speak of significant things.

K.W. Jeter | Dr. Adder | Bluejay | 1984

I don’t know if it really started cyberpunk or not, but this early 80s classic has to be read to be believed. It must be the only book ever written in which a person who performs unnecessary amputations is emblematized as a salvific moral force. The sex scenes with the rat-eating sewer girl are good too. Mythic!

Stewart Home | Memphis Underground | Snowbooks | 2007

Home’s newest evolves from a satire contrasting suburban and urban (ghetto) life, to a touching memoir of friendships in the art world. He’s probably the best British novelist writing at the moment, and this is his most playfully intimate novel. Do the British people a favor and read this instead of any of their dreary official novelists.

Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz, eds. | Bad Modernisms | Duke | 2006

This fine book of essays resurrects the evil and awful sides of Modernism, pointing at some of the courageous badness and sniveling abjection that coexisted with the boring masterpieces. This book helps us to perceive a less sanitized Modernist era which prefigures contemporary interest in the communicative power, utility, and authenticity of awful writing.

Sheron Mesmer | Annoying Diabetic Bitch | Combo | 2007

Finally a poet meaner than Lenny Bruce. For all those who have been spiritually exploited by the iconography of the Olsen twins, get this book and be healed.

Jennifer Moxley | The Middle Room | Subpress | 2007

There’s a quality to the tone of this book, as if Tolstoy were resurrected as a Valley Girl, that is truly charming. It’s also nice to be reminded that, when it comes to literature, “charming” finally does transcend all else. This book succeeds in engrossing me in the details of all sorts of things that I would have thought I had no interest in, as well as being completely (but not at all brutally) honest about the real motivations for writing poetry.

bpNichol | The Alphabet Game: a bpNichol Reader; ed. Darren Wershler-Henry and Lori Emerson | Coach House | 2007

A great collection of Canada’s most versatile and inventive poet. Poem-drawings like “Aleph Unit” amaze me every time I look at them. Nichol’s greatness comes from his ability to draw attention to and make expressive use of language’s semantic and visual properties simultaneously, keeping the reader alert to the crisis point at which visuality becomes semantic.

Ara Shirinyan | Your Country is Great: Afghanistan—Guyana | Futurepoem | 2008

This book revolutionizes (will revolutionize?) poetry based on internet searches, showing us the nature of the attention archived on the internet by taking us to the margins of that attention. It’s the first attempt to view the globe as the internet does: I’m very interested in what sort of work will be forthcoming from people who digest and react to this book.

Gary Sullivan | PPL in a Depot | Roof | 2007

Gary Sullivan demonstrates that free speech is all about hurting people, wanting to hurt people, and other illusions of agency. These plays show us how much it matters by being brutally honest about how little it matters; the formal care and attention that goes into these collages weights even the lightest, most banal statements with foreboding emblematic import.

Joseph Thomas | Strong Measures | Make Now | 2007

I think this is the first book of avant-garde poetry ever constructed 100% out of lines and words plagiarized from a volume of conservative poetry. Beginning with the anthology of “new formalist” poetry, Strong Measures, Thomas wrings interest out of the most grey-suited academic work imaginable, producing an awkward and zany beauty. As an act of critique, this book is hilarious; as an act of salvage, it shows just how much a work can be improved by the right plagiarist.

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More Stan Apps here.