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Attention Span 2012 | Joseph Mosconi

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

Brian Kim Stefans, ed. | The LA Telephone Book, Vol. 1| Free Downloadable PDF | 2012

Andrew Choate | Stingray Clapping | Insert Blanc | 2012

Kate Durbin | E! Entertainment | Insert Blanc | 2012

David Graeber | Debt: The First 5,000 Years | Melville House | 2011

Ariana Reines | Mercury | Fence | 2012

Adam Pendleton | grey-blue grain | Kunstverein | 2010

Alexis Smith | Alone | Self-Published | 2012

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

Corina Copp | Pro Magenta/Be Met | Ugly Duckling | 2011

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Joseph Mosconi co-edits Area Sneaks (currently on hiatus). With Ara Shirinyan & Andrew Maxwell he co-directs the Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles. He is the author of WORD SEARCH (OMG! 2010), But On Geometric (Parrot, Insert Blanc, 2010), and Galvanized Iron on the Citizens’ Band (PRB, 2009). His book Fright Catalog is forthcoming on Inset Blanc Press.

Joseph Mosconi’s contributions to Attention Span for 2009, 2006, 2005. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Lauren Levin

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Michelle Alexander | The New Jim Crow | New Press | 2010
Ruth Gilmore | Golden Gulag | California | 2007
Jonathan Simon | Governing Through Crime | Oxford | 2007

Three powerful lenses on the prison-industrial complex. Prisons, policing, and surveillance as the racist legacy of Jim Crow laws, re-tooled for a supposedly colorblind age. Prisons as California political economy, warping the landscape. And finally, the rhetoric of “crime” as neoliberal governing paradigm, with the victim enthroned as paradigmatic figure in a culture of fear. I want to read these three again in 2013.

Lauren Berlant | Cruel Optimism | Duke | 2011
Lauren Berlant | Supervalent Thought | Ongoing

“A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing.” Cruel Optimism is the best kind of political education: patient and compassionate; rigorous and unflinching. I might love Lauren Berlant’s blog Supervalent Thought even more. If only because, like optimism and history, Supervalent Thought is still being written.

Corina Copp | Pro Magenta/Be Met | Ugly Duckling | 2011
Jacqueline Waters | One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t | Ugly Duckling | 2011

These two genius books arrive, arrows from the depths of the mystery of poetry, and I’m slain. PS – One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t showcases the best Punxsutawney Phil poem ever written in the history of humanity.

Samuel R. Delany | Times Square Red, Times Square Blue | NYU | 1999
Martha Rosler | Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism | e-flux | 2011

Samuel R. Delany’s classic on urban space, on contact vs. networking, on public sex as opportunity for cross-class communication, on gentrification. Plus, Martha Rosler’s three recent e-flux essays on the “creative class” and the transnational city as depoliticized pleasure dome. Read together, these two projects were an endlessly provocative utopia / dystopia—troubling the right to the city.

Lara Durback | Projectiles | NoNo | 2012
Sara Larsen | All Revolutions Will Be Fabulous | Ypolita | Forthcoming, 2012
Alli Warren | Personal Poem | City Lights | Forthcoming, 2013

This has been quite a year. Often events outpaced poetry. But, I heard Sara Larsen say “Hunger is free.” Alli Warren said “Lust before dishonor.” And Lara Durback told me, “I didn’t hold any of my own possessions. First I just didn’t have them. Later I rejected property.” Readings by these three scrambled my atoms when I needed it.

Samantha Giles | Deadfalls and Snares | Futurepoem | Forthcoming, 2012

Tender, pained, at times brutal work on (among other issues of empire) the Abu Ghraib tortures. This book re-sees, from many angles, the suffering muted by discourse and mediation. It’s tied, for me, to my first experience of it, at a reading organized by kathryn l. pringle. I wish I could hear all books of poetry read aloud and then talk about them with a group of thoughtful friends and strangers.

Brenda Iijima | Untimely Death Is Driven Beyond the Horizon | Unpublished MS

Antigone enters. Pesticides, eco-cide. a guiding conversation with Leslie Scalapino and the beloved dead. The drone poem and the brain-body of the dancer. This dense, velvety and deeply charged writing is a timely call and warning: also a furnace of the imagination. It “plunges the brain into darkness where it doesn’t fester.”

Killer Mike | R.A.P. Music | Williams Street Records | 2012

Reagan is a tendency. And this Killer Mike album is a testament.

Jared Stanley | The Weeds | Salt | 2012

Poems, like the tenacious weeds themselves, insist on the animist “intelligence of a disturbed earth.” Pathos, cynicism, and wit: or, “What is it you do with your skin / fuckorama worldly knives?”

Dan Thomas-Glass | The Great American Beat-Jack Volume 1 | Perfect Lovers | 2012

This exquisite object has to be held to be believed, and has to be spiraled to be read. And then there’s the poetry. I love Dan Thomas-Glass’s music, his honesty, and his tireless explorations of community, memory, gender roles, and the future—embodied in his daughters Sonia and Alma, and in political hope.

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Lauren Levin is from New Orleans and lives in Oakland. She wrote Working (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs), Song (The Physiocrats), Keenan (Lame House Press) and Not Time (Boxwood Editions). Recent work appears or will appear in OMG, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Rethinking Marxism, 1913, and Catch-Up, and critical essays on Anne Boyer & Stephanie Young, and Brent Cunningham, are in Lana Turner Online. She co-edits the Poetic Labor Project blog and the journal Mrs. Maybe.

This is Lauren Levin’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Liz Kotz

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Lutz Bacher | Do You Love Me? | Primary Information | 2012

The new book project by Lutz Bacher, the influential California-based artist whose work—with language, image, sound, video, and pretty much everything else—has percolated out into the world over the past four decades. The book is made of transcripts of conversations in which the artist interviews friends and colleagues about their impressions of her, intercut with family pix, artworks and other ephemera. The results are moving, maddening, and mostly evasive. A post-it from a friend observes, “I often see the world as a found photograph by you.”

CA Conrad | A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics | Wave | 2012

Another wild ride of a book: 27 “soma(tic) poetry exercises” to let the grit of life into writing, and the resulting poems, plus an interview, notes from a couple workshops, and suggestions for reading. It’s a manual for living with awareness and imagination.

Richard Hertz | Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia | Minneola | 2011

I found myself re-reading this one after seeing the recent Goldstein retrospective. A quasi-biography of the late artist constructed from reflections by friends and colleagues—John Baldessari, Troy Brauntuch, Meg Cranston, Robert Longo, James Welling, et al—as well as Goldstein himself, it’s a classic fractured narrative. We follow Jack from Chouinard to Cal Arts and the booming New York artworld of the 1980s, and learn more than we might want about romances, rivalries and betrayals as his career builds and then unravels. Profoundly sad and revealing, it’s a great antidote to the usual mythologization of the “Pictures generation” and the Metro Pictures scene.

Branden Joseph | Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts After Cage | Zone | 2011

One of the hits of recent art history, Beyond the Dream Syndicate theorizes the emergence of interdisciplinary artmaking in the 1960s through the work and life of the experimental filmmaker and musician Tony Conrad. Densely researched, with forays into projects by key surrounding figures—Walter De Maria, Henry Flynt, Jack Smith, and La Monte Young, among others—it offers what Joseph terms a “minor history” of our recent past.

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

Kevin Killian reads more than anyone I know, with a range and depth that confounds me. He also writes Amazon reviews, 2430 at last count. This second small volume of “selected” reviews—of poetry, critical theory, biography and how-to books, DVDs, jewelry, household items and Ibuprofen—reveals Killian as the connoisseur of everyday life, the bard of our moment. Like CA Conrad, he understands that anything can be an occasion for writing. At a time when everyone is translating informal online writing—blogs, facebook posts, discussion boards, you name it—into book form, Killian’s devotion to the humble “amazon review” feels right.

André Leroi-Gourhan | Gesture and Speech | MIT / October | 1993

The grand theoretical treatise of the late French anthropologist, paleontologist and scholar of prehistoric art, Gesture and Speech understands language as fully imbricated with human physiology, sociality and technology. Leroi-Gourhan moves from the basic physical organization that makes us human—frontal orientation, “tools for the hand, language for the face”—to explore the roots of markmaking and what Derrida later terms “primary graphism.” Originally published in the 1940s, it underlies key currents of 1960s poststructuralism—it’s hard to imagine Of Grammatology or the “body without organs” without its lead. Although long out of print, you can find a PDF online.

Eileen Myles | Snowflake / different streets | Wave | 2012

Two books in one, depending on which side you open. One skips across the weird placelessness of Southern California and endless hours on the freeway, with quick jotted efforts (some transcriptions while driving) to grasp the feelings that constantly slip by. The other returns home to a familiar but now different world and self, in Myles’ characteristically slim spacious lines.

Chris Kraus | The Summer of Hate | Semiotext(e)/Native Agents | 2012

How could you lose with that title? A novel, I suppose, about an LA-based writer escaping town to Albuquerque and the recently sober ex con she falls in with, The Summer of Hate is also the story of our fucked-up present, our appalling prison and legal systems, and various other catastrophes. Through a romance played out over car trips and court dates, it holds out hope for redemption.

Yvonne Rainer | Poems | Badlands Unlimited | 2011

A slim book of poems by the acclaimed choreographer, filmmaker and writer, mostly written since the late 1990s. Language has always been one of Rainer’s primary mediums, and here she plays with it in spare and deceptively simple forms that look backward from a life lived well and still going forward.

Mark So | recent scores | Mark So / uploaddownloadperform | 2006-2012

For the last few years, the composer Mark So has written text-based scores—hundreds of them—that wander between music, poetry, drawing and various less formalized ways of moving through the world. Some are typed in unique copies, others handwritten on staff paper, and others use printed sheets of text and overlaid transparencies. One of my favorites is “To avoid possible boredom and the stain …” (2011), which scatters letters and punctuation marks drawn from the Ashbery poem “Rivers” across the page of five transparencies, which one places on top of the title page to generate an ever-changing process of reading and looking. It is great to see someone breaking new ground. Available online here.

La Monte Young, ed. | An Anthology of Chance Operations … | La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low | 1963

I’m always surprised that not everyone knows this book. Consisting of scores and texts that the minimalist composer La Monte Young collected in 1960-1961 from a bunch of then-young and emerging composers, sculptors, dancers and poets—George Brecht, Walter De Maria, Henry Flynt, Simone Forti, Jackson Mac Low, Robert Morris, Dieter Roth, Emmett Williams, et al—and designed by Fluxus founder George Maciunas, it crystalized emerging forms of artistic interdisciplinarity and continues to be a strange and inspiring object. Long out of print, it is available as a PDF on ubuweb.

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Liz Kotz is the author of Words to Be Looked At: Language in Sixties Art and the co-editor, with Eileen Myles, of The New Fuck You. She teaches art history at UC Riverside and writes on contemporary art. She is working on two book projects—a collection of interviews with LA-based artists and an examination of La Monte Young’s collection An Anthology of Chance Operations—as well as an essay on Bernadette Mayer’s exhibition and book Memory (1972/1976).

This is Liz Kotz’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

Attention Span 2012 | Michael S. Hennessey

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Tascam | DR-40 Handheld 4-track Recorder
Dominic Mazzoni, Roger Dannenberg et al. | Audacity 2.0.1 | 2012

I can’t begin to estimate how many recordings I’ve digitized during the five years I’ve been working at PennSound, and over the past year I put those skills to use on a pair of personal projects: making a box set of my grandfather’s home recordings (as a Christmas present for my family and to mark the twenty-five years since his death), and preserving a shoebox full of tapes from my high school and college musical experiments. Digging out my old Fostex 4-track recorder — bought after a full summer of scrimping and saving—to remaster multitrack tapes, and listening to countless hissy demos recorded on the tape deck of a J. C. Penney stereo has made me more appreciative than ever for the incredible sound recording and editing tools that are now available to anyone for free. Audacity was already a solid, if idiosyncratic sound editor before version 2.0 was released this year, and though I’ve barely had the chance to explore all of the added features, I know it’s going to be an amazing tool for saving poor-quality poetry recordings.

By the same token, after several years of dragging a full recording rig (laptop, USB interface, microphone and stand, cables, etc.) out to local readings, I was very happy this year to upgrade to a Tascam portable recorder that fits in my pocket and can still produce studio-quality audio. It saves me a lot of time and trouble, has proven to be more reliable and glitch-free than my old setup, and it gets me from the reading to the bar in less time—what could be better than that?

Moog Music, Inc. | MF-101 Lowpass Filter, MF-102 Ring Modulator and MF-103 12-Stage Phaser

While I relished digital convenience this year, I also got serious about exploring analogue synthesis, a process that started after I picked up a Monotron, Korg’s $50 cellphone-sized analogue ribbon synth. Though it’s got an authentic oscillator and the same lowpass filter as the classic MS-20, the Monotron’s size and clunky interface make it more of a noisemaker than a real instrument. While a Moog synthesizer is way out of my price range, thanks to a generous partner and a few good deals on used gear I was able to pick up this trio of “moogerfoogers” (synth modules in the form of guitar pedals designed by Bob Moog himself in the late 1990s) and I’ve had more fun, and felt more closely connected to making music than ever before. I also tracked down a series of introductory essays on sound synthesis that Moog penned for Keyboard magazine in the late 70s, which provided this largely self-taught musician and audio technician with a wealth of startling new insights, a completely new understanding of how sound works.

Eileen Myles | Inferno (a Poet’s Novel) | OR | 2012
Eileen Myles | Cool For You | Soft Skull | 2008

What I cherish most about Eileen Myles as a poet is the absorptive quality of her work, something I first recognized reading Maxfield Parrish while wrapped up in blankets on a snowy winter day. I spent this winter happily wrapped up in Myles’ hypnotic prose, which serves as an even better vehicle for her voice, that incredibly warm and welcoming secret weapon that makes even the most difficult details of the hard-lived lives she depicts beguiling, and you grateful for the opportunity to experience them.

Brian Eno | A Year With Swollen Appendices | Faber & Faber | 1996

Finally back in print after many years of unavailability (albeit in a shoddy print-on-demand edition), Brian Eno’s diary of a very busy 1995 is fascinating for all of the reasons you’d expect (among other projects, he makes records with David Bowie and U2) along with some surprises (particularly a somewhat mundane yet fulfilling family life with his wife and two young daughters). What was most interesting to me about this nearly twenty-year-old time capsule, however, were the oblique contextual details, which reveal how drastically our world has changed (especially Eno’s use of e-mail, CD-Roms and other computer technology, which feel positively archaic) and how much it’s still the same (namely, international politics are still a hopeless mess). The book’s “swollen appendices”—containing Eno’s essays, stories, interviews, proposals and correspondence spanning several decades—elevates it from a curio to an essential collection.

Joe Brainard | The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard | Library of America | 2012
Tim Dlugos | A Fast Life: the Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos | Nightboat | 2011
Matt Wolf | I Remember—a Film About Joe Brainard | 2012

It’s been a great year to be a fan of both of these poets, whose lives and careers overlap in a surprising number of ways—both were young voice-driven poets who demonstrated a broad range of styles and forms, both espoused strong queer identities in their work, both were lost far too soon to AIDS in the early 1990s, and both saw much of their work remain woefully out of print until the release of these landmark volumes. While I’ve relished Brainard and Dlugos’ writing for a number of years and tracked down affordable used copies whenever I could, I don’t feel like I fully appreciated their talents until I was able to fully immerse myself in their collected works, where the complexities of their respective aesthetic evolutions became clear. Nonetheless, these are both books that invite you to dip in at a random point, to jump around from page to page, and while you tell yourself that you’re just going to read one or two pieces, you’re very likely to come to, as if from a dream, an hour later and still want to keep reading.

The excitement of finally getting The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard is compounded by Matt Wolf’s recent documentary short, I Remember—a Film About Joe Brainard, a haunting and gorgeous meditation that deftly intertwines both imagery (home movies and photographs, Brainard’s artwork and stock footage) and audio (recordings of Brainard reading from I Remember waltz around a contemporary interview with Ron Padgett) to create a compelling tribute to the author.

Radiohead | Riverbend Music Center, Cincinnati | 2012

In a year that’s seen the demise of some of my generation’s most important bands—R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth—I felt that much luckier to finally see one of my personal favorites in concert, and while their tour was ultimately overshadowed by the tragic stage collapse in Toronto that killed their drum tech, Scott Johnson, I’d rather remember a perfect cool spring night when I was able to connect with their music in exciting and intimate new ways.

Charles J. Shields | And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: a Life | Holt| 2011

I wrapped up this past academic year teaching a ten-week survey of the works of Kurt Vonnegut. While I’ve taught his work here and there (mostly Slaughterhouse-Five in a variety of classes) and have revisited a few favorites in recent years (namely Jailbird and Deadeye Dick), it had been more than a decade since I eagerly devoured his collected works over the course of a long post-college autumn, and I pitched the course to my chair less out of a great enthusiasm for the writing than in response to student interest in the class and a desire to switch things up a little. By the end of the term, I had a newfound respect for Vonnegut, both as a writer—largely in appreciation of the dense and multifaceted universe he spent fifty years creating—and as a person, mostly thanks to Charles J. Shields’ recently-released biography.

And So It Goes is an unflinching (and at times unflattering) portrait of the beloved author, showing us that he could be a terrible husband, a distant father, a curmudgeon and ultimately a victim of his own poor choices, but it also yields many new revelations concerning his talents, his writing process and inspirations. Trained as a public relations man for G.E. during his early years, the Vonnegut we know from his books and interviews always felt a little too carefully cultivated—like a persona instead of a person—but thanks to Shields, it feels as if we finally have a real sense of the man.

Dave Tompkins | How to Wreck a Nice Beach: the Vocoder from World War II to Hip Hop—the Machine Speaks | Stop Smiling | 2010

As its subtitle suggests, Dave Tompkins’s debut book takes you on a sprawling journey, tracing the history of the vocoder—a voice encoder/synthesizer that started out as a telecommunications encryption system for the military, became a vital part of musical compositions by artists as diverse as Wendy Carlos, Kraftwerk, Laurie Anderson, Afrika Bambaataa and Neil Young, and now allows us to speak to one another on our cellphones. While Tompkins’ tone occasionally gets in the way (he can be a little too glibly hip at times) he does a remarkable job of finding the humanity behind the robotic voice, honoring a diverse cast of humble technicians and often long-forgotten musicians who helped further the device’s development over many decades. Likewise, he traces the connections between disparate worlds and discourses with great ease, and the book itself is a gorgeous production brimming with photographs and diagrams. The only thing that’s missing is the music itself (which YouTube ably provides).

Elliott Smith | Grand Mal: Studio Rarities | 2006(?)–2012

It’s been nearly a decade since the tragic death of preternaturally-talented singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, and the passing of time hasn’t made the pain of that loss any more acute. While his official discography is limited to five studio albums (plus one posthumous release), Smith was a prolific and tireless writer who recorded new material and tinkered with older pieces incessantly, and like his idols the Beatles, this work was of consistently high quality—any album cut, b-side or compilation track could be every bit as brilliant as the singles. Years before his death, I was tracking down these rarities on the internet through message boards and Limewire, and like many fans I was glad to see the release of New Moon, a collection of twenty-four such tracks, in 2007. However, late last year when I discovered Grand Mal—a free fan-curated and remastered online compendium of seemingly every available unreleased recording in existence, spanning eight discs and 131 tracks—I was simply blown away. While it’s a treasure trove of amazing music, I think I love Grand Mal even more as a representation of the generous, democratic power of open culture on the web, which trumps commercial considerations, benefiting us all.

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Michael S. Hennessey’s contributions to Attention Span for 201120102009. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Amina Cain

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NS | We Press Ourselves Plainly | Nightboat | 2010

“Charge through the door or the chimney…”

Bhanu Kapil | Schizophrene | Nightboat | 2011

“A map of three black days and beneath it in pencil a sentence.”

Andrew K. Peterson | Bonjour Meriwether and the Rabid Maps | Fact-Simile | 2011

“Huddle close to the interpreter’s glow.”

Renee Gladman | The Ravickians | Dorothy | 2011

“There is the proximity of the adult human body and then there is the closeness of buildings.”

George Eliot | Middlemarch | Penguin | 1871

“Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.”

Gina Abelkop | Darling Beastlettes | Apostrophe | 2011

“A small, raw vegetable you once overlooked was peeking out from under my skirt.”

Andrea Rexilius | Half of What They Carried Flew Away | Letter Machine | 2012

“I would begin wintered with the hawk and fox.”

Gail Scott | Heroine | Coach House | 1999

“The lens shifts again to that dome-shaped café.”

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Amina Cain is the author of I Go To Some Hollow (Les Figues, 2009) and CREATURE (Dorothy, forthcoming 2013). She lives and writes in Los Angeles.

Amina Cain’s contribution to Attention Span for 2011. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Kathleen Ossip

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Roddy Lumsden | The Bells of Hope | Penned in the Margins | 2012

For some time I have been a fan and a friend of the British poet Roddy Lumsden. We met in 2002 when we read together at the Ear Inn on Spring Street, one of the chill old and now lamented meccas for poetry readings in New York. Coincidentally, we both read from confessional(esque) sonnet sequences; each of our sonnets’ titles began with the word “My.” That spoke to some kind of affinity, which I think boils down to a fondness for self-concealment/revelation via very rich and concentrated language and tight structures and formal gameplaying. His latest, The Bells of Hope, inches more toward revelation than concealment and his language is more heady than ever. It is a breathtaking account of a dark night.

Donna Tartt | The Little Friend | Vintage | 2003
Jennifer Egan | A Visit from the Goon Squad | Anchor | 2011
Cormac McCarthy | Blood Meridian | Vintage | 1992

More and more I have a hankering for narrative, relatively undiluted. Sometimes I can get this from poems, but sometimes I need novels. This summer I read three, late to the party. Tartt’s followup to The Secret History threw me back to my idle novel-reading summers as a kid, when I would drench myself in long narratives, preferably set in small, languid southern towns. Egan’s smash hit is a poet’s novel (although she’s not a poet) in its disjunction and its formal experimentation. It’s a very readable pleasure, full of despair and redemption, though I was surprised that the redemption took the form, almost exclusively, of heterosexual marriage and family. A trip through the southwest this summer urged me toward Cormac McCarthy—I wanted to understand what stories could be born from those huge, bare, alienating landscapes. I’m still in the middle of it, but once I got past the florid language, I’m compelled by the horrific and historically accurate violence of the story and find myself drawing a pretty clear through-line to 2012.

Ezra Pound | The Cantos of Ezra Pound | New Directions | 1996
Carroll Terrell | A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound | California | 1993

I’m perpetually rereading The Cantos—it’s my desert island pick. What seems indispensable about it is its inclusiveness, how Pound put everything in, a big swath of human history, his longings, his mania, his hatefulness, his intellect, his music, his heart, his profound regrets. I read the behemoth black-covered paperback from New Directions, alternately consulting the mustard-colored Companion, an obsessive-compulsive’s dream.

Shane McCrae | Blood | Noemi | forthcoming
Joseph Harrington | Griefing on Summit
Sarah Vap | Arco Iris | Saturnalia | forthcoming
Christina Davis | An Ethic | Nightboat | forthcoming

One of the luckiest things about being a poet is getting sneak peeks at other poets’ books. This year I was lucky enough to read four beautiful manuscripts, all but one due out soon. Blood is nothing less than the story of race in the United States, from the slave trade to the McCrae’s own immediate family history. Harrington’s latest, from his multivolume documentation of his mother’s 20th-century life, explores her time as a political worker on Capitol Hill. Vap writes of a pair of American lovers and their trek across South America and the resulting enchantment, revulsion, moral uncertainty, and lots of sex. Davis’s second book asks tough spiritual questions in the aftermath of her father’s death. What they all have in common: narrative (yes), urgency, hard thinking, emotional openness, an acknowledgment of our complex relationship with language. Look for them.

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Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Cold War, which was named one of Publishers Weekly’s 100 best books of 2011; The Search Engine, which was selected by Derek Walcott for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize; and Cinephrastics, a chapbook of movie poems. She teaches at The New School and the Hudson Valley Writers Center and online for The Poetry School in London. She was a co-founder of LIT (the journal of the graduate writing program at The New School), and she’s the poetry editor of Women’s Studies Quarterly. She has received a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

This is Kathleen Ossip’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to directory.

Written by Steve Evans

December 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

Attention Span 2012 | Ruth Jennison

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Chad Friedrichs, dir. | The Pruitt-Igoe Myth | 2011

It’s not so much that this documentary is formally masterful; in fact, it’s all about the content here. But the ideological intervention it makes is consummately important and seriously successful. The “failure” of Pruitt-Igoe is the crown-jewel in the anti-utopian, anti-modernists’ case. But we know that it is the utopians that always tell the truth. Pruitt-Igoe, it shows, flamed briefly and brightly as an interracial communitarian project, and its inhabitants cry on-screen over its loss to the austerity attrition of government funding and restoration of segregation in Saint Louis.

Richard Pare | The Lost Vanguard: Russian Modernist Architecture 1922-1932 | 2007

This book is nicely paired with The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. A loving and voluminous photographic survey of Soviet-era modernist architecture. It’s not ruin porn, if that’s what you’re in search of. Pare’s eye is in absolute solidarity with the social dreams preserved in alembics of concrete and plaster. Each and every photograph, and its thorough attendant description, offers an opportunity to fantasize lavishly about a world where Family and Obedience no longer bind the structures in which we live and labor.

Bela Tarr, dir.| Sátántangó | 1994

You should be suspicions of Tarr, but watch all of his films. Sátántangó, like much of his oeuvre, is anti-Communist, mythic, and quasi-religious. It is also a wildly melancholic and totalizing account of transition—a staring out from a dusty precipice onto emerging landscapes of differently-formed capitalist accumulation. Like the work of Aleksandr Sokurov, it is precisely its anti-materialism that should please the student of history who finds richness in the valiant failure to grasp the punctual moments when one kind of history becomes another.

Bethesda Softworks | Fallout – New Vegas | 2010

According to my gaming statistics, I spent the length of a February in a leap year playing this game. That makes sense, since the game insists on the fictitious nature of any calendar not wedded to seasonal cycle or the actions of its world. The apocalypse, for the game’s creators, brings equal parts Gemütlichkeit and gore. One possible ending, entitled “No Gods No Masters,” carves a home out of time, however virtual, for our anarchist comrades.

Antler | Factory | City Lights | 1980

Antler’s neo-Beat Whitmanian anti-capitalism is a prismatic negation of emerging neoliberalism’s labor regimes and attendant eviscerating effects on the class-for-itself. The repetition of form clogs up the humanism, but you’ll need both Adorno and The 1844 Manuscripts to really get it. The inauthentic solution at the end features a squirrel that can once again travel contiguously from coast to coast on branches reforested over the detritus of capital. Factory is best read alongside the excellent syndicalist anthology Rebel Rank and File: Labor Militancy and Revolt from Below During the Long 1970s.

Hossam el-Hamalawy | http://www.arabawy.org

El Hamalawy has been and remains one of my principal guides to the Egyptian revolution. His reporting and analysis offer incredibly subtle and partisan accounts of the unfolding social and class antagonisms in the Middle East. His activism far predates the revolution, and it is his rootedness in the industrial strike actions in the textile sector that allows his analysis to go really vertical; really deep into the prehistory of Tahrir. He is also an excellent curator of revolutionary graffiti and anti-authoritarian metal.

Kenneth Fearing | Collected Poems | Random House | 1940

Sol Funaroff might tenderly eulogize Fearing’s sensorium of historical consciousness: “I am that exile/ from a future time/ from shores of freedom/ I may never know.” My favorite Fearing poem, “Denouement,” is at once a cemetery of socialist possibility and a breathtaking celebration of the kind of infinite vision possessed by the best revolutionaries. If you have the vaguest interest in how poetry supersedes narrative in its ability to mediate the struggle against capital, then you should read this poem. Fearing writes to, and from, that future time.

Srđan Spasojević, dir.| A Serbian Film | 2010

This film received a mixed reception at best. But it’s not at all correct to write it off as yet another iteration in the now fully mainstream genre of torture porn. It is a gritty Skype from the semi-periphery, a filmic impress of teeth-grinding nationalism, war crimes of rape and murder, post-Communist immiseration, “industries” of orphans and pornography, and the blood and effluvium soaked nest of the family romance.

Larry Eigner | Collected Poems | Stanford | 2010

It’s the 70s period windowscapes which I love the most, but I haven’t finished the entire oeuvre, so I could end up loving something more, better, later. I’m reading this alongside Fredric Jameson’s Representing Capital and the two are profoundly inter-illuminating. The geographic fidelity of Eigner’s particulars is matched only by their deference to the silent abstractions of empty typespace. Isn’t that also the secret of the letters, and the dashes, of M-C-M ?

Craig Santos Perez | from unincorporated territory [saina] | Omnidawn | 2010

Perez’s expansive, materialist geographies of Guam remind us that the Pacific is to the 21st Century what the Atlantic was to an earlier capitalism. Perez cites the importance of the tilde (~) throughout his work; its rolling oceanic wave alternates in its function as an allusion to waterways, and to mathematical equivalence. The poem, like its predecessor, from unincorporated territory [hacha], is full Earth in its spatial imaginary, emotionally sonorous and unironically vibrant in its protest. A postmodern Charmorro epic.

Jim van Bebber, dir. | Deadbeat at Dawn | 1988

What if Dayton, and not Detroit, were the site-specific synecdoche of outsourcing, austerity and uncommoning? For Van Bebber, it is. The ultraviolence is robust, at times besting the heroic sadism of Rob Zombie’s anti-federalist lumpens. But it’s the urban landscapes that really show the violence of Reaganite dispossession; unevenly brutal scars on the city combine, and the periphery is an archipelago in the core.

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Ruth Jennison is an Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst. She has recently published The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins and the Avant-Garde (Johns Hopkins, 2012). Her current project is entitled “Figurative Capital: Poetry and the World System, 1929-1989.”

This is Ruth Jennison’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 25, 2012 at 9:00 am

Attention Span 2012 | John Yau

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Frank Kuenstler | LENS | Film Culture | 1964

It took Kuenstler more than a decade to accumulate the paired words by paired words that make up this single work. In one of the most radical books of poetry published during the 1960s—something which has still to be recognized—Kuenstler takes apart and rejoins words. This is writing that comes out of reading and listening. Canticle becomes “can.Tickle.” Tornado becomes “torn.NATO.” Kuenstler sustains this level of hyper-precise attention for pages.

Frank Kuenstler | In Which | Cairn | 1994

This book was the last to appear during Kuenstler’s lifetime. The poet Michael O’Brien, who has championed his friend for more than four decades, published it. Every sentence in the book begins with, “In which…” Example: “In which the garter belt & the Bible Belt.”

John Taggart | Is Music: New and Selected Poems | Copper Canyon | 2010

Made up of new poems and poems culled from Taggart’s fourteen books, many of which are out of print, this selection contains the full range of Taggart’s genius. Read “The Marvin Gaye Suite” and you will see what I mean.

John Koethe | Ninety-fifth Street: Poems| Harper Perennial | 2009

Koethe remains remarkably open to the vagaries of time, place, and memory, often combining all three in a single poem. In this book, he writes about being in Potsdam and Berlin (places he had not been before), Lagos (where he has never been), and New York and Milwaukee (places he knows well). Contradictorily as this might sound, Koethe’s poems are simultaneously purposeful and meandering reflections upon the individual borne along by time. For those coming to Koethe for the first time, I would suggest “North Point North: New and Selected” (2002).

Susan Stewart | The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics | Chicago | 2005

All critics ought to aspire to the condition of sympathy, insight, and learning that informs Stewart’s essays on art and artists such as Ann Hamilton, Tacita Dean and Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Michel de Certeau | The Practice of Everyday Life | California | 2011

I have found this book particularly useful in thinking about the need to get beyond, as Robert Creeley said, “the habits of one’s own thinking.” Both individually and collectively, are we to simply accept the legacies that have been packaged and handed to us as if they are the final say. De Certeau has a lot to say about this.

T. J. Clark | The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers | Princeton | 1989

This book got a lot of negative reviews when it came out. Don’t believe them. Read this book and make up your own mind.

T.J. Clark | The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing | Yale | 2008

Clark keeps a diary of his impressions of two paintings by Poussin, “Landscape With a Man Killed by a Snake” and “Landscape With a Calm,” that were facing each other at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles when he was there for what he calls ‘a six-month stint’ in January 2000. Clark states: ‘We should think about why some visual configurations are harder to put into words than others. And about whether there is an ethical, or even political, point to that elusiveness’. Certainly, it is something to remember when looking at art or reading a poem.

James Meyer | Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties | Yale | 2004

This is the smartest book I’ve read about a well-known, well-documented, often considered period. The research Meyer has done into the period, as well as his writing about Ann Truitt is nothing short of brilliant. This was a book that needed to be written and we are lucky to have gotten it.

Robert Walser, trans. Christopher Middleton | Selected Stories | NYRB Classics | 2002

Both Middleton and Susan Bernofsky’s translations of Walser are essential reading.

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This is John Yau’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 24, 2012 at 8:00 am

Attention Span 2012 | Jennifer Scappettone

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This is not a “best of” list, but a cluster of pairs of books I was lucky enough to relish in the midst of finishing projects that had me immersed in works 40-160 years old (or older), and of the immediacy of the occupations, whose greatest texts were transient. I’ve taken pains to draw attention to works by those outside my innermost circles of reference—though various intellectual confidantes have published spectacular works this year—and to point to at least a couple of things that won’t appear elsewhere on the ‘Span, due to their temporal or geographical non-proximity.

two modernists:

Claude Cahun, trans. Susan de Muth | Disavowals: or Cancelled Confessions | Tate | 2008
and
Entre Nous: The Art of Claude Cahun show at the Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago Loop | 2012

The image of Cahun gripping a Nazi badge between her teeth after having been released in 1945, an avowal if ever there was one, forms the aptest of codas to these disavowals. Their twin across la fa ille being

Nathanaël | Absence Where As (Claude Cahun and the Unopened Book) | Nightboat | 2009.

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

Strategic delirium, across subject positions and idioms. And how many of us have heeded the Baroness’s riposte to Duchamp’s Fountain through a drain pipe called God?

two novels of a sort:

Gail Scott | The Obituary | Nightboat | 2012

The domestic architecture of Montreal and of its languages is delivered in unapologetically contaminated accents redolent of Joyce and of Baron Corvo’s Crabbe. And that’s not even to mention the sleuthing. Long awaited.

Robert Coover | Pinocchio in Venice | Simon & Schuster | 1991

Written in the same period in which Coover wrote “The End of Books.” (Further speculation on this point forthcoming next fall from me….)

two anthologies:

Yelena Gluzman & Matvei Yankelevich, eds. | Emergency Index 2011 | Ugly Duckling | 2012

It was a crazy idea to hunt and gather a bound archive of global time-based art, in seemingly casual chronological order. They pulled it off.

Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman, eds. | The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics | 2012

I commend the editors for their explosion of the venerable tome to encompass contributions by younger and farflung scholars, as well as terms such as, gosh, xenoglossia and glossolalia. A Herculean collaboration, against obsolescence.

metacommentaries on the actual:

Tan Lin | Insomnia and the Aunt | Kenning | 2011

Disintegrating racial memory (or the notion of such) force-filtered through obsolete tube technology: Lin keeps delivering it, even in the leisure time of paper.

Dana Ward | The Crisis of Infinite Worlds | Futurepoem | forthcoming

Maps the bad infinite of slumberland-as-invective, Alicelike.

in translation:

Jonathan Stalling | Yingelishi: Sinophonic English Poetry and Poetics | Counterpath | 2011

The most amazing aspect of this experiment in traduction, aural and written: that in “English,” one hears a banal set of stock-utterances in an abjected alien accent, while the Chinese text assumes the highfalutinness of poesy.

Frederick Bodmer, ed. Lancelot Hogben | The Loom of Language | Norton | 1944

A fascinating study-manifesto by a renegade linguist, aimed at world peace through revelation of the interrelations between languages, anarchy and traffic. Discovered in Rosselli’s personal library.

reenfleshed, the rebellious metaphysical:

Stacy Doris | Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit | Nightboat | 2012

“…which is my house if / I leave now you know since / I’m the milk of all cats / which time one and still me”

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Jennifer Scappettone‘s contributions to Attention Span for 2010, 2009200820072006200520042003.

Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 23, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Joshua Edwards

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Roberto Bolaño, trans. Chris Andrews | Amulet | New Directions | 1999

Amulet is a strange, short, lyrical novel that confuses time and identity as it explores questions of community and politics in Mexico City in the 1960s and 1970s.

Inger Christensen, trans. Susanna Nied | alphabet | New Directions | 2000

The moment I finished this book I thought, “I wish I had read that a lot earlier.” These are the sort of poems that inspire people (more ambitious than myself) to learn a new language.

E. M. Cioran, trans. Richard Howard | A Short History of Decay | Arcade | 1998

A deluge of aphorisms, darkness, and humor. Reading it is like going for a brisk morning jog in a waste land. “In every man sleeps a prophet, and when he wakes there is a little more evil in the world.”

Teju Cole | Open City | Random House | 2011

This novel made me want to write a novel. Its narrator elegantly meditates on travel, cities, walking, politics, history, love, and solitude.

Cid Corman | O/I | The Elizabeth Press | 1974

Corman and I share a birthday (separated by 54 years). Although having admired his work in bits, I hadn’t read a single collection until this one, which I love. Spare and sensual, full of ideas, friends, and places, O/I has great range and an easy wisdom that puts other poets—who posture to be called wise—to shame.

John Glassco | Memoirs of Montparnasse | New York Review Books | 2007

This is a joyous, beautifully-written memoir about being a young and in love with life. It’s also about Paris and the literary set there in the 1920s.

Kenzaburo Oe, trans. Kunioki Yanagishita and William Wethrall | A Quiet Life | Grove | 1996

I bought A Quiet Life knowing only that it was one of the few novels by Oe that I hadn’t yet read. His work always seems to magically arrive at just the write moment, there are many things in this book (which blends critical study, fiction, and memoir) that have helped me work through my own recent writing.

Georg Trakl, trans. Robert Firmage | Song of the West | North Point | 1988

I picked up this selected bilingual edition of Trakl because I’d only read a few of his poems and I remembered enjoying them. Hopefully after a year in Germany I’ll be work my way through the originals, but I loved Robert Firmage’s translations. His images are the sort that instantly send tremors through my sense of things. “Toads emerge from silver water.”

John Williams | Stoner | New York Review Books Classics | 2006

This is a depressing novel about a child of farmers who becomes an academic. If anyone out there knows of an uplifting novel about a child of academics who becomes a farmer, please contact me.

Nick Twemlow | Palm Trees | Green Lantern | 2012
Lynn Xu | Debts & Lessons | Omnidawn | forthcoming 2013

These two soon-to-be-released collections by two of my Canarium co-editors / closest friends / biggest influences/ favorite poets, Lynn Xu and Nick Twemlow, are flat-out incredible. They’ll both shake the world.

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Joshua Edwards directs and co-edits Canarium Books. He’s the author of Campeche (Noemi Press, 2011) and Imperial Nostalgias (Ugly Duckling Presse, forthcoming), and the translator of Mexican poet María Baranda’s Ficticia (Shearsman Books, 2010). He and his wife, Lynn Xu, live in Marfa, Texas and Stuttgart, Germany, where he’s currently a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Joshua Edwards’s contributions to Attention Span for 2011, 201020092007. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 23, 2012 at 6:17 pm