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Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Guest

Attention Span 2011 | Robert Stanton

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Rae Armantrout | Money Shot | Wesleyan | 2011

“Just” another incredible book from Armantrout, maybe even her greatest to date. Her best poems—personal favourites here include “Across,” “Fuel” “Soft Money,” “Exact” & “This Is”—are the best poems being written in America (& in American) right now.

Larry Eigner, ed. Curtis Faville & Robert Grenier | The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner | Stanford | 2010

A whole new way of seeing—& of thinking/feeling/recording what is seen. What more can one ask of a poet? I’m still ploughing through the four volume set, but this already feels like a major event in my reading life. . . .

Graham Foust | To Anacreon in Heaven | Minus A | 2010

Just when Foust’s more usual gallows-humour-driven expressionistic-minimalist style was in danger of edging into shtick, he diversifies—in this & in To Graham Foust on the Morning of His Fortieth Birthday (The Song Cave, 2010)—into sentence-by-sentence prose meditation, retaining his virtues in concision & upset but presenting them on a much bigger canvas. Like a colder Spicer, a more fucked-up Stevens, he rejuvenates the serial-poem-about-poetry-that’s-really-about-life for a more cynical age. Where will he go next?

Mark Ford | Six Children | Faber | 2011

What a strange, troubling & strangely moving volume this is. Ford’s poetry has been described as a cross between Ashbery’s & Larkin’s—fairly accurately, it must be said, although in itself this doesn’t prepare for the absolute oddness of such an amalgam. A deep student of the New York School, & of Ashbery in particular, Ford can’t summon the playfulness, optimism or confidence of his American forebears, replacing them with chilly despair, repressed anxiety & mortal dread. Death pervades—elegies to the poet’s father, a memorial to a friend & fellow poet—along with a new, for Ford, post-colonial nostalgia-slash-guilt. Like the title poem, which thrillingly instills an ambivalent Whitman with appropriate Miltonic splendor, this book works, & is curiously uplifting in its dejection. Also recommended, on a similarly morbid note: Paul Muldoon’s new volume, Maggot (Faber, 2011).

Barbara Guest | Forces of Imagination | Kelsey St. | 2003

Alongside Eigner & Zanzotto (see below), my third big, belated discovery of the year was, courtesy of John Wilkinson’s critical advocacy, Barbara Guest. I’m still working (wandering) through her Collected Poems, but this collection of “essays” and assorted reflections really caught my attention: a more convincing, fluid meeting of “theory” & “poetry” than any “Language” text I’ve ever encountered. True & precious abstraction. . . .

Geoffrey Hill | Clavics | Enitharmon | 2011

Fun to see—in this & in Oraclau | Oracles (Clutag, 2010)—Hill try to shoehorn his late-won, new-found wilder style back into strict forms (and formalists don’t come much stricter than George Herbert, the obvious model here). Clunky in places, outright bad in others, full of infelicities the younger Hill would never have countenanced, this volume is nevertheless full of a poetic liveliness a 79-year old High Anglican Oxford Professor of Poetry has no earthly right to access. Hills’ Oxford lectures have been enjoyable so far too, especially when he called for a crazier “Mad Meg” spirit he felt was lacking from contemporary British poetry. Maybe he should read more Keston Sutherland (see below).

Joseph Massey | At the Point | Shearsman | 2011

Massey’s sophomore effort proves more of less can sometimes be more. In this case, a more structured, leaner, meaner & altogether poised survey of the same Californian territory already addressed in his impressive debut, Areas of Fog. The obvious byproduct & overflow of a long-sustained & concentrated observation, this new book nevertheless seems to be forever gesturing off at something larger, something just out of view. . . .

Jennifer Moxley | Coastal | The Song Cave | 2011

This should be insufferable: a “9/11” poem long on art & artistic survival techniques, short on political comment & commentary. Moxley, however, pulls it off (again). By tackling self-absorption head on, she somehow embodies, ennobles & transcends it all at once, producing a poem both diagnostic & exemplary in the process, something her less explicitly but more intrinsically narcissistic peers would struggle with. (Between this, the Foust text mentioned above & Peter Gizzi’s wonderfully titled Pinocchio’s Gnosis, The Song Cave gets my vote as press-of-the-year.)

J. H. Prynne | Sub Songs | Barque | 2010

After the bleak To Pollen and the (pleasingly) rebarbative Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage ARTESIAN, these nine lyrics seem, presented in an elegant and generous outsize folio as they are, positively relaxed by recent Prynne standards. It’s all relative, of course:

……………………………………………….The place-work of
willed repeats gains a familiar tremor in jointure, we say
sustainable our mouth assents slave dental unbroken torrid reason
will commute previous and lie down. None more credible, mirror
make up flat sat batch pinup gruesome genome. Now get out.

Keston Sutherland | Stress Position | Barque | 2009

Slow on the uptake here, probably because Sutherland’s previous volume, 2007’s Hot White Andy, scared the hell out of me (blazing as it was). Stress Position is intense too, but in a more diffused manner, making room for a cast of thousands (Ali whoever, Black Beauty, Dot, etc.), a bouncy elastic form (seven line stanzas, roughly seven beat lines, the odd extended prose footnote) & numerous scenic shifts (public toilet-set sexual assault, yacht-based cooking contest, etc.). Like David Cronenberg rewriting The Rape of the Lock, Stress Position evades any pat analogy you can throw at it. My vote for it as poem of the year (2009) elects it king of something or other. The same terrain is roundly abused again in The Stats on Infinity (Crater, 2010) & his prose study Stupefaction (Seagull, forthcoming 2011) looks promising too. Best English-language poet of his generation? Quite possibly.

Christian Wiman | Every Riven Thing | Farrar | 2010

This year’s mainstream-book-I-liked-much-more-than-I-expected-to. A new formalist previously overly interested in narrative (with very mixed results: see the sequence “Being Serious” for serious overwrought bathetic wallowing of the first water), Wiman is here thrown back onto his own story by a cancer diagnosis & its subsequent aftermath, becoming an intense, driven, forceful & skilful religious poet as a result. Everyday epiphanies meet convincingly apocalyptic tinges in a volume that, thankfully, rises above the merely confessional.

“Bubbling Under” (couldn’t resist a second eleven): works by Stephen Collis; Emily Critchley; Roy Fisher; Susan Howe; Paul Muldoon; Wendy Mulford (the Howe & Mulford texts here—That This & The Land Between—are properly, powerfully “adult” responses to grief and morality: an interesting contrast to the sometimes gleeful outlook of Ford & Muldoon); Ezra Pound (ed. Richard Sieburth); Tom Raworth; Rimbaud (trans. John Ashbery); David Foster Wallace (a pure joy—too funny to be the work of a suicide, surely?); Andrea Zanzotto (& Antonio Porta & Franco Buffoni & Milo de Angelis & Valerio Magrelli & Mario Luzi & Patrizia Cavalli—it’s been a very Italian year for me, all-told, reading-wise).

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Rob Stanton was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, UK in 1977, raised outside Birmingham, educated in Cardiff and Leeds and currently lives in Savannah, Georgia, USA with wife, daughter and cats. His first book of poetry, The Method, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2011.

Stanton’s Attention Span for 2010. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2009 – Elizabeth Robinson

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Laura Sims | Stranger | Fence Books | 2009

This reflection on the early death of the author’s mother could have been bathetic, but instead it is quirky, perceptive and, while affectively convincing, strange.

Keith Waldrop | Transcendental Studies | University of California | 2009

A terrific, substantive collection.

Thomas A. Clark | of Woods and Water | Moschatel Press | 2008

Inheritor of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s mantle, Clark writes deceptively simple lyrics whose modulations creep up on the reader.

Eileen Myles | The Importance of Being Iceland | Semiotexte | 2009

This book of essays is really funny, but also astute, pointed, full of characteristic Myles dynamism.

Barbara Guest | Forces of Imagination | Kelsey St. Press | 2003

I just keep reading and rereading this one, and every time find Guest’s poetics sharp, often humorous, haunted, compelling.

Truong Tran | Four Letter Words | Apogee Press | 2008

These poems are formally lively, while the content here zings.

Orlando White | Bone Light | Red Hen Press | 2009

White is a young writer and this is his first book. Its intense focus interrogates language letter by letter.

Tyrone Williams | On Spec | Omnidawn | 2007

Completely engrossing.

James Laughlin | The Way it Wasn’t | New Directions | 2006

Notes toward a memoir that Laughlin never wrote, this book is vastly entertaining (JL refers to Bill Clinton as “Smiley”) and full of good literary gossip. It is also heartbreaking to get hints at how hard it is to keep a literary press alive, especially as Laughlin struggles to retain authors who are lured away by larger presses (e.g., John Hawkes, Anne Carson).

Myung Mi Kim | Penury | Omnidawn | 2009

Painful content, exquisitely sculpted writing.

More Elizabeth Robinson here.

Attention Span 2009 – Chris Hosea

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Lisa Robertson | Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip | Coach House | 2009

Robertson’s books punk baroque mythologies, riff on errant possibilities, tickle traditions. Debbie: An Epic, or The Weather, or The Men, is each a world, a project. This volume gathers shorter poems that are just as ravishing. The back cover shouts in big silver capitals: “MY FIDELITY IS MY OWN DISASTER.” If you read this book in public, you may get curious looks, as I did on the F train. The lyrics are long on capital-R Romance. Each time you ride in the Soul Whip, turn up the stereo, roll down the windows and see stars shining even in hellish places. “Utopia is so emotional. / Then we get used to it.” Blues music Coleridge would download if he could.

Roberto Bolaño | 2666 | Farrar Straus | 2008

Bolaño’s epic, in a symphonic translation by Natasha Wimmer, resists any attempt at summary in the same way that it humanely mocks totalizing interpretations. 2666 inhabits the narrative space Homer’s swineherd summoned when he told Odysseus, “The nights are endless now.”

Hadley Haden Guest, ed. | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan | 2008
Barbara Guest | Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing | Kelsey Street | 2003

Guest’s essays, which lay out her conception of imagination as elusive and visionary (“obscure light…the mysterious side of thought”), helped me begin to unlock the Wesleyan collected and see how Guest’s poems collage images. Her poems rarely argue or lead. They provide beautifully designed spaces for thought, to be returned to in all seasons.

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Nichols leaps the gap between one non sequitur and the next with all the grace of Buster Keaton. I guess I was thinking of the news when something musical came from the hard drive, and we were working days again.

Stuart Bailey, ed. | DOT DOT DOT 17 | 2008

Will Holder’s lecture on “the poetics of CONCRETE POETRY and documenting the work of FALKE PISANO” is transcribed and lineated, and though it doesn’t purport to be a poem, strikes me as the most genuinely new work in the genre I’ve read this year. Holder, with this patchwork of citations about concrete poetry (including examples of the form and quotations from his own critical writings), genially takes poetry about poetry to a deadpan reductio ad absurdum. Not for the faint of heart.

Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocte | 2008

Reading Young’s book feels like being admitted to someone else’s daydream. Or getting lost in a Jonas Mekas movie, only digital. A gorgeous sprawl.

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Moxley’s narratives take craft to the limit without losing the easygoing lilt that makes this book such a pleasure. This is poetry as remarkable for its intellectual scope as its generous attempts to imagine and recreate the first person plural in a boldly imaginative variety of guises.

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

The bulk of this selection of letters, including drafts of poems, is addressed to Beckett’s friend Thomas McGreevy, fellow acolyte of Joyce, poet and critic. How amazing to see Beckett’s perspective and humor change and sharpen with the years! He sets himself questions he will attempt forever, such as, “Am I to set my teeth & be disinterested? […] Is one to insist on a crucifixion for which there is no demand?”

Renee Gladman | To After That (Toaf) | Atelos | 2008

In this critical memoir of the process of thinking about writing a novel, Gladman invents a new architectural period of nostalgia and ambition.

Paolo Virno | Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation | Semiotext(e) | 2008

Jokes make a revolution in the workplace. “The joke is a public action that can be accomplished solely by means of words.” File under philosophy.

Chris Hosea is co-editor, with Cecily Iddings, of The Blue Letter.

Attention Span 2009 – Rodney Koeneke

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Kit Robinson | The Messianic Trees: Selected Poems 1976-2003 | Adventures in Poetry | 2009

“When I was a musician’s musician / I used to be a poet’s poet / then a black box” is the story of American poetry, postwar to next war to the one after that, rendered to clean Dolchese. ‘76 daps 2003: “Hey, poetry lovers! / It’s good to see you / here on the page.”

Julian T. Brolaski | A Buck in a Corridor | flynpyntar press | 2008

Saunter Gowanus with enough English in your pocket and it curls to its Middle like this, a new-gender’d Cockaigne “wher no bivalves gurgle at our kushing.”

Norma Cole | Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008 | City Lights | 2009

City Lights brought back to life via “the whole story of the light” set to music of “enormous rotating blades.” Poetry as algebra proving the theorem “that dictionary may be a companion to art but life/is the most sentimental thing there is.”

David Larsen | Names of the Lion | Atticus/Finch | 2009

Truth in advertising: all 500 hundred of Ibn Khalawayh’s names for the lion (“Whose Complaint Sets Others Moving,” “Whose Coat is the Color of Papyrus,” “He Who Looks for Trouble in the Night”) shined and seductively annotated “in the procedural spirit of recent avant-garde tradition.” “If Names of the Lion reads like an elegiac text, it is because we of the twenty-first century mourn the lion’s lost mastery over the earth.”

Barbara Guest | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan | 2008

Jupiter no longer so invisibly pulling so many of ‘09’s moons.

Douglas Oliver | Whisper ‘Louise’ | Reality Street | 2005

Louise Michel, “Red Virgin” of the Paris Commune, turned Revolution into paper-mâché and held sick horses in the street. Oliver makes her contradictions a piñata for his own life to fit into, the better to study the candy of our shared political dreams.

Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

Memoir goes to the movies and comes back as Parker Posey in a script by Yvonne Rainer. “That we could come of age inside another person’s coming of age story, or come to political consciousness inside another person’s coming to political consciousness story, haven’t people been doing that forever?”

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Say it forty times fast and watch “little ships / of sensitive data” leave magic dimes behind everyone’s seats.

Michael Gizzi | New Depths of Deadpan | Burning Deck | 2009

Gizzi’s the Moses of tablets turned to sound, then dropped from the cliffs to hit ‘C’. This new Sinai’s pure Barbasol, all wobble and aloe and swing. When “blessings descend but no one knows how to redeem them,” then “grammar cracks eggs as best it can.”

Brandon Downing | bdown68’s Channel | YouTube | 2009

Disjunction soaked in the world’s B-movies and pulled out as syntax again. Jung never looked so harajuku, subtitles so lyrically green.

David Brazil & Sara Larsen, eds. | Try! Magazine | self-published | 2008-2009

Periplum to a party that would never have Pound as a member. Proof positive that toner and staples can make a Bay Area anywhere.

More Rodney Koeneke here.

Attention Span 2009 – Patrick Pritchett

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George Bowering | Kerrisdale Elegies | Talonbooks | 2008

Joseph Ceravolo | Spring in This World of Poor Mutts | Columbia UP | 1968

William Corbett | Opening Day | Hanging Loose | 2009

Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Drafts | various websites

Ted Enslin | Nine | NPF | 2004

Barbara Guest | Collected Poems | Wesleyan | 2008

Michael Heller | Eschaton | Talisman | 2009

Fanny Howe | The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation | Grey Wolf | 2009

Andrew Joron | The Sound Mirror | Flood | 2009

Ann Lauterbach | Or To Begin Again | Penguin | 2009

David Mutschlecner | Sign | Ahsahta | 2007

Gustaf Sobin | The Earth as Air | 1982 | New Directions

More Patrick Pritchett here.

Attention Span 2009 – Charles Alexander

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Full disclosure: In part I’m playing Chax’s horn, but mostly because I REALLY love those books!

CA Conrad | The Book of Frank | Chax Press

Steve McCaffery | Slightly Left of Thinking | Chax Press

Karen Mac Cormack  | Implexures — complete edition | Chax Press

Jacque Vaught Brogan | ta(l)king eyes | Chax Press

Michael Cross | in felt treeling | Chax Press

Barbara Guest | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan

Jack Spicer | My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer | Wesleyan

Ron Silliman | The Alphabet | Univ of Alabama Press

Myung Mi Kim | Penury | Univ of California Press

Hank Lazer | Portions | Lavender Ink

Lyn Hejinian | Saga/Circus | Omnidawn

Charles Alexander publishes Chax Books.

Attention Span 2009 – Leonard Schwartz

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Joseph Donahue | Terra Lucida | Talisman House | 2009

Donahue’s long running and much awaited serial poem is now gathered in one place. Extraordinary in its richness of thought, perception, imagination…

Jacqueline Risset, trans. Jennifer Moxley | Sleep’s Powers | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2008

This was one of the most engaging books I have read in a long time. In this book of short essays poet and translator Jacqueline Risset asks us to go beyond dream, which is image and narrative, into sleep, which is a different form of thought altogether.

Andrew Zawacki | Petals of Zero, Petals of One | Talisman House| 2008

This philosophically engaging poet follows out both the logic of the arrow and the logic of the arrow’s shadow in this arresting book.

Nathanael (Nathalie Stephens) | Absence Where As: (Claude Cahun And The Unopened Book) | Nightboat Books | 2009

A philosophical prose that suggests the possibility of an autonomous art…

Anne Waldman | Manatee/Humanity | Penguin | 2009

Surely as poets we must strive to speak not only to humanity but to animality and divinity too. Anne Waldman does so…

Brian Henry | The Stripping Point | Counterpath Press | 2007

Brian Henry contributes mightily to a poetics of citationality.

Stacy Szymaszek | Hyperglossia | Litmus Books | 2009

Elizabeth Robinson says it best: “part dissonance, part song.” The fragmented can also bespeak the possibility of continuing.

Rene Char, trans. Gustaf Sobin | The Brittle Age and Returning Upland | Counterpoint Press | 2009

Great to have this translation of the great French poet by the recently passed away great American poet finally in print…

Danill Kharms, trans. Matvei Yankelevich | Today I Wrote Nothing | Overlook | 2007

Matvei Yankelevich has done an extraordinary thing in resucitating in English translation this nearly forgotten Russian absurdist (“Oberiu”) poet (1904-1942).

Barbara Guest | Complete Poems | Wesleyan University Press | 2008

All of Guests’s poems in one big edition…

Caty Sporleder | Flay: a book of mu | Blazevox | 2009

A new writer to watch…

More Leonard Schwartz here.