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Posts Tagged ‘Barrett Watten

Attention Span 2011 | Brian Ang

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Alain Badiou | Conditions | Continuum | 2008

The best introduction to Badiou’s system as immediately useful for literary criticism, due to its accessible thematic organization around Badiou’s four truth procedures of poetry, mathematics, politics, and love: an opening parry and complement to the denser Being and Event. I’ve found Badiou and the strength of his system, as a philosopher proper, to be a cleansing challenge to post-structuralist and Marxist tenets grown dogmatic: philosophy restores contextual problematics to conclusions simplified into the present.

Calvin Bedient & David Lau, eds. | Lana Turner 3 | 2010

A wealth of emergent ideas pursued all year: I’ve returned the most to David Lau and Joshua Clover’s works, and Ben Lerner, Marjorie Perloff, and Gopal Balakrishnan’s works were also highlights. Lana Turner’s sustained editorial argument achieves a hybridism with the capacity to take a stand.

Alastair Brotchie & Harry Mathews, eds. | Oulipo Compendium | Make Now | 2005

Editor Ara Shirinyan gave me the Make Now catalogue when I visited Los Angeles in June. A trove to the endurance of form and stalwart ideas, and an historical authority behind the wager of contemporary conceptual writing.

Joshua Clover | Fragment on the Machine | self-published | 2011

An occasional pamphlet made for the “Can Art and Politics Be Thought?” conference in Los Angeles in June in an edition of 50. Contains Clover’s recent poems “Gilded Age,” “In the City It Was Warmer,” “Poem (Oh capital let’s kiss and make up)” and “Years of Analysis for a Day of Synthesis” in English and French. The first and last were published in Lana Turner 3 and 2 respectively. Clover’s recent poems are his best and most urgent.

Benjamin Friedlander | Period Piece | porci con le ali | 1998

I had correspondence of poems and thoughts with Ben this year and among items received was this poetic tribute to San Francisco Bay Area Language poetry as he knew it. It was a fascinating reading experience, for the effects of Ben’s Bay Area moment are strongly sedimented in the present Bay Area in which I live. It was a helpful work in thinking about historical cultural sediment in both spatial specificity and concept and an affirmation of how poems are a uniquely maximal form of communication over time’s milieus.

Richard Kempton | Provo: Amsterdam’s Anarchist Revolt | Autonomedia | 2007

Read as part of the suggested material for Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr’s Durruti Free Skool, along with Raul Zibechi’s Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces and the East Bay Skool specific complement, Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch. I found this book to be the most directly useful of the materials to the immediate situation by the Provo anarchists’ similarity of environment of a modern city and their insistence on playful insurrectionary performance art. It was also a reminder of the importance of a rigorous theoretical understanding of material conditions: the Provos proved not to be sustainable past the exuberance of their moment without a program.

Ron Silliman | The Alphabet | Alabama | 2008

Silliman’s works take such a commitment to read, their experiences are unforgettable and permanently transformative. In the pressure chambers of Silliman’s works, some sentences only read once have echoed in my head for years. Preparing for and presenting at Louis Cabri’s Alphabet symposium in March gave me the necessary energy to finish this. I can’t think of any other book in which time-congealed labor is so palpable in every sentence.

Brian Kim Stefans | Viva Miscegenation | Insert | 2010

I received Insert Press’ PARROT chapbooks nos. 4-7 from editor Mathew Timmons when he read in my apartment in May, and I’ve returned the most to this one. Stefans leans more toward his Ashbery inclinations than his Bernstein ones here, subordinating thickness of language to making an antechamber of communication toward the ineffable importance of a potential recipient, striking an exceptional pleasurable organization between intimate address and expansive play.

Dan Thomas-Glass, ed. | With + Stand 5 | self-published | 2011

Thomas-Glass’ generous experimental sensibility and DIY community sensitivity capture the organic ambiance of the moment and let the spray paint and duct tape dangle. This latest issue is the densest yet and a rich document of the year.

Tiqqun | Call | 2004

I hosted several Talk events at my apartment this year and this was distributed at one of them for discussion. I’ve found the Tiqqun texts stimulating for redeploying Situationist-style energy out from historical contemplation back into urgency in confronting contemporary particulars. Contentions with and lessons from Tiqqun have been immediately contributive in recent activist movements, including for student activists engaged in and coming out of current Californian public education struggles.

Barrett Watten, ed. | THIS 9-12 | THIS | 1979-1982

Barrett gave me these when we both attended the Alphabet symposium in March. It’s moving to read the major poems of Language poetry of the period, including Tjanting, a.k.a., “I Guess Work the Time Up,” and Four Lectures, in their first appearances and organization through Barrett’s visionary editing.


Brian Ang is the author of Communism (Berkeley Neo-Baroque, 2011) and Paradise Now (Grey Book Press, 2011) and the editor of ARMED CELL. Starting in October he will be a Guest Commentator on the PennSound archive for Jacket2. He lives in Oakland, California.

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Attention Span 2011 | Suzanne Stein

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Brian Whitener | False Intimacy | Trafficker | 2011

Erika Staiti | In the Stitches | Trafficker | 2011

Dana Ward | Cory Arcangel’s “All the Parts from Simon and Garfunkel’s 1984 Central Park Performance Where Garfunkel Sings with His Hands in His Pocket” | Open Space, the SFMOMA blog | November 10, 2010

Kaja Silverman | Flesh of My Flesh| Stanford | 2009

Barrett Watten | Total Syntax | Southern Illinois | 1985


There are some other things I loved this year also. Laura Moriarty’s | A Tonalist | (Nightboat Books | 2010). David Brazil’s | yo! eos! | (Neo-Baroque, 2011). Sara Larsen’s | The Hallucinated (cannot exist, 2011). I stopped going to poetry readings at the beginning of November. I read The Coming Insurrection. I remembered I went to work in an art museum because I love the way I feel when I am looking at paintings, so I looked at a lot of paintings. I read The Handbook of Poetic Forms. I watched Gena Rowlands in Opening Night again and I bought the John Cassavetes | Five Films box set from The Criterion Collection | 2004. I went to the Bancroft Library for the first time. I listened to Stephen Cope’s | Conference of the Birds | podcasts. I went to Detroit. I stopped in Boston, Baltimore, and Denver. I went to Maine. I visited the Kabuki Hot Springs eight times. I read The Painting of Modern Life. I didn’t go to the office on a lot of Fridays. I looked at a calendar chronology of Duchamp. I bought a rotary telephone and a Sunday subscription to the New York Times. “No knows where that humming is coming from; one could not stop it if one tried.” (Barrett Watten, Total Syntax, 1985.)


Suzanne Stein is a poet. She works currently as community producer at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, editing the museum’s online magazine, Open Space, and organizing a variety of talk- and conversation-based programs. She lives in Oakland. Stein’s Attention Span for 20102009. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span – Dawn Michelle Baude

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Keston Sutherland | Neutrality | Barque | 2004

Upon returning from 18 years abroad, I asked two poets tens years my junior what book I should buy. They put Neutrality into my grasping hand. Hence I encountered Sutherland’s work for the first time and fell in love, literally, with the whoosh-plop-boom of that verbal cascade. It surges from its source with a delightful rhythm, to the point that  I suspect the layout on the page provides the syllogistic pretext for the argument of the poem without exerting a durable impact on prosody (this bears further consideration). I like the fact that this work doesn’t take itself too seriously, an important consideration when a lot of what’s available to read in the US seems to move from a homogenous, self-congratulatory careerism.

Mel Nichols | The Beginning of Beauty | Edge  | 2007

Nichols is one of my favorite poets and this book is full of what she does best: the insightful quotidian of being human, combined with a wacky, prickly sense of humor and inflected with a staunch political acumen—Kyger and Notley reverberate here, with a little of Hejinian and Darragh in the mix. Nichols is capable of range—The Beginning of Beauty has an acerbic wit that takes a back seat in her “Day Poem” series, where the mood is quieter and engages a flexible, compelling query into the new humanism—I’m a devoted fan of the Day Poems. Beauty is, of course, beautiful—a joy to hold, with its intimate, polysemous blue secret. That tip-in is so erotic.

Robert Creeley | The Niagara Magazine: Robert Creeley—A Dialogue | 1978

Oh Lord—what a gem—everything so deeply, irrevocably Creeley, in conversation with Kevin Power in Buffalo in 1976. If a book had arms, I’d want to crawl into them here. I found this issue which managed, somehow, to survive the pulverizing fists of time at a very cool second-hand bookshop specialized in impossibly hard-to-find poetry publications—Hermitage—in Beacon, Lower Hudson Valley.

Joseph Lease | Broken World | Coffee House | 2007

I’ve carried this book from country to country for the last year and a half, picking it up whenever I need to think—or rather hear—the poem. Lease has something of Palmer in him, something of Creeley, a bit of Spicer. The argument of the book is chilling, and sad, and somehow, redemptive. I’m into reading books where I actually feel a poet on the other side, the flesh & blood one, who knows when to cast identity upon the page like a stone tossed into the lake. I read a book like this and I want to borrow some of his moves and drink a glass of Merlot.

VA | The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography | Mode A | 2006-

Basically anywhere that Barrett Watten’s brain has been I want to check out. It’s like going in for an oil change—are we thinking? Really thinking? As someone who’s had a voyeur’s view of the Language Poets from the get-go, I like to keep an eye on them, all of them. And the Grand Piano series is not a disappointment. If I can recuperate the word “panoptic” to employ in a pre-Foucaultian/Bentham sense, I would. But the quantum viewpoint might be better to describe this document in collective autobiography. At any rate, for a movement that has consistently faced accusations of mannerism (and a lot worse), the embodied narratives of Grand Piano provide the waves that those hard-copy particles need. Give a Language Poet a hug.

Buck Downs | Let It Rip | Washington, DC | 2007

I came across these poems this summer and I had to re-read. Downs’ line is so tight, the torque between words so high, the potential energy would seem a bit dangerous, were it not for lyric commitments. Tenderness, especially. The focus on juxtaposition of grammatical units functions differently from the trajectories we’re accustomed to follow, given the predictable paratactic idioms of our age. You have to read these poems slowly, word by word, as if the conditions of their making required more than a casual performative reconstruction. There’s wit here, in abundance, and keen social commentary, and a kind of revelatory intimacy, too.

Andrew Schelling | Wild Form & Savage Grammar | La Alameda | 2003

I didn’t know the US had any kind o f Ecological movement in poetry until I recently came across this book. The question that Schelling poses—how can we have a writing that also commits to the compelling issues of Ecology—is certainly worth considering, even (or especially) at this belated standpoint. Since Ecology is not, as far as I can ascertain, anywhere near the heart of contemporary poetics, Schelling turns often to Asia for ideas that were waylaid in history, a tendency that endears me to this book since many US poets have truncated their connection to the past as a source of meaningful information and finally end-up looking awfully provincial. Schelling is a good, clear essayist, so he took me places I hadn’t been before.

Kevin Davies | The Golden Age of Paraphernalia | Edge | 2008

Sharp, witty, incisive—this book has a lot to keep me busy. The prosody (the driving issue for this reader) catches my eye because Davies has a lot of textured variation. The main thrust, so to speak, of the poet’s concerns is contemporary social commentary, and this commentary is rich and informed. But it’s the reoccurring pig image/references that hooked me! Since I’ve been out of the country for so long, Davies is a wonderful discovery.


More Dawn Michelle Baude here.