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Attention Span 2011 | Michael S. Hennessey

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

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

Alice Notley | Culture of One | Penguin | 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lorine Niedecker | Collected Works | California | 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More Michael S. Hennessey here.

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

Attention Span 2011 | Melanie Neilson

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Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009

Anne Boyer | The Romance of Happy Workers | Coffee House | 2008

Rod Smith | Deed | Iowa | 2007

CA Conrad | The Book of Frank | Chax | 2009

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Steve Farmer | Glowball | Theenk | 2010

Eileen Myles | The Importance of Being Iceland | Semiotext(e) | 2009

Sianne Ngai | Ugly Feelings | Harvard | 2005

Jerry Lewis | The Total Film-Maker | Random | 1971

Kevin Killian | Impossible Princess | City Lights | 2009

Monica de la Torre | Public Domain | Roof | 2008

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Gertrude Stein | Lucy Church Amiably | Something Else | 1930 reissued 1969

Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian | My Vocabulary Did This to Me | Wesleyan | 2008

Philip Whalen, ed. Michael Rothenberg | The Collected Poems | Wesleyan | 2007

Lew Welch, ed. Donald Allen | Ring of Bone: Collected 1950-1970 | Grey Fox | 1979

Donald Bogle | Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters | Harper Collins | 2011

Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. | Race Music | California |2003

Bern Porter | Found Poems | Nightboat | 2011

Jessica B. Harris | High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America | Bloomsbury | 2011

James Lee Burke | Detective Dave Robicheaux series of 18 thrillers set in Louisiana: The Neon Rain to The Glass Rainbow | Pocket | 1989-2010

Lewis Klahr, Engram Sepals | Melodramas (sequence of seven 16mm films, 75 minutes) | 1994-2000

Elvis Presley | The Country Side of Elvis | RCA | 2001

Raymond Chandler, performed by Elliott Gould | Red Wind (1938) | New Millennium Audio | 2002

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More Melanie Neilson here.

Neilson’s Attention Span for 2009. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Nathaniel Otting

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Amanda Nadelberg | Bright Brave Phenomena | Coffee House | 2012

It’s been another Year of the Song Cave & it’s hard to believe that Nadelberg’s Building Castles in Spain, Getting Married, the second book in this peerless series, emerged in November 2009. The Age of the Song Cave is too long (it’s ongoing) to properly document here but it seems wrong not to sing some books: Amaranth Borsuk’s Tonal Saw (“tremble | fire | A | kind | of | fire” & “o | o | o | stumble” & “mmandm | Append”), Jane Gregory’s Some Books (“Instead of this book I set out to prove the birdnoise to the bird as my mind was in my office and my office was in my mind.”) Jared Stanley’s How The Desert Did Me In (“Uh! Principia, uh, I’ll think about it.”), Macgregor Card’s The Archers (“There there, manual severity / of being, bonus being, being general / general poet—”), and Graham Foust’s To Graham Foust on the Morning of His Fortieth Birthday (“Tiny hawks of poetry all over you, you sit at screens to punch a book into the world.”), Lisa Jarnot’s Amedillin Cooperative Nosegay (“odyssia’s very original boobs and the warm apt facts of john thaw”) to list just half the 2010 titles. Songcavewise, 2011 has been nonstop, too. To name only the first few (well, half): Andy Fitch’s solo Island, Rod Smith’s whatwow What’s the Deal, Peter Gizzi’s purplegreen Pinnochio’s Gnosis, Jennifer Moxley’s worldly Coastal, and Dana Ward’s doubleheader, The Squeakquel. When I visited the Cincinnati of The Squeakquel, I told Dana that my dad had left Erga kai hemerai in the car back in Kentucky, so he lent me Bill Luoma’s Works and Days (with a graceful note from Michael Gizzi: “Dear Mr. Ward”) which probably would have just been this list if I hadn’t left it in a car bound for Kentucky. One of the greater Song Caves, Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s Hesiod (“All song at once, isn’t this / like balancing the needs of friends?), a working over of Hesiod’s ‘Days,’ is as beautiful as the original chruson genos, the Golden Age. Like Luoma’s, O’Brien’s Works is as ageless as H’s. (And an H is not even an H.) All of this just to say that Amanda Nadelberg is our age’s poet in an Age of Poets. Awaiting Bright Brave Phenomena is like waiting for the things themselves to appear, brighter and braver and phenomenally more than ever before.

Brandon Brown | The Persians by Aeschylus | Displaced
Farrah Field & Jared White | Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Book Shop | Est. 2011

Bookstores need to get brighter and braver in the Post-Border’s Age and Brooklyn is the beacon. Jon Beacham’s Hermitage presses on, as The Brother in Elysium, on Bedford Ave. Around the bend, Book Thug Nation maintains a sill full of Book Thug (no relation). Above all, may Adam Tobin’s unbeatable Unnameable Books, in Prospect Heights, outlast all of us. Into the fray, enter poets Field and White, whose Berl’s, growing so well it may have a roof before Fall. When I made a pilgrimage to their table at the Brooklyn Flea, I found the only thing one can ask, exactly the one book I was looking for in the whole world. No small feat considering they display around 20 books on any given day. Tyrone Williams’ beautiful, everything-breaking elegy, Pink Tie (Hooke Press, 2011). Chapbooks to seek at Berl’s: Wondrous Things I Have Seen (Mitzvah Chaps, 2010) by Herodotus, jk by Brandon Brown (aka Aeschylus aka Catullus) & Preserving The Old Way Of Life (Factory Hollow Press, 2007) by Shannon Burns.

James Copeland | Fax II | self | 2011
CAConrad | MUGGED Into Poetry | Cannot Exist | 2011.

Copeland knows, and how, his Hölderlin. Does Coolidge (circa THIS 6) know his Copeland, writ large? Fax II exists, tho it doesn’t say so. Andy Gricevich’s Cannot Exist (Issue 7 has Conrad + Coletti, Copp, Hauser, Higdon, Larsen, Ward, &c) exists chapbooks! Besides Conrad’s: Roberto Harrison’s Bridge of the World, Sara Larsen’s The Hallucinated, Jess Mynes’ How’s the Cows. Conrad continues being amazing. His devastating reading of “MUGGED Into Poetry” (written after he was mugged en route to a reading by new CE co-editor Lewis Freedman) at the Supermachine 3 launch awed my mom. Cannot wait to get her A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (Wave Books, 2012). Until then, I got her Heather Christle’s The Trees, The Trees (Octopus Books, 2011).

Tim Dlugos | A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos | Nightboat | 2011
Patrick James Dunagan | A Gustonbook | Post-Apollo Press | 2011

“It’s hard enough to find a parachute / in New York City, I remember thinking, / but finding one the right shade / of canary is the accomplishment / of the sort of citizen with whom / I wish to populate my life.” Dlugos’ “Parachute” (and Conrad’s devastating reading of it) is one of the saddest, and most beautiful, wakes, and makes me cry every time. And “G-9”, with its double wake, is the great elegy of our time. If Steve Carey was the news of 2010, and to me, too, he was, Dlugos is, to me (with Carey, still, too) the news of 2011. Except to me (tho nothing new is in print) the news was, and will be for some time, Peter Seaton, who would not have existed so suddenly and indispensably in my life without Craig Dworkin’s Eclipse. A Book + Craig Dworkin = Eclipse. (Dworkin’s own The Perverse Library, like all of his books, is to be owned.) I’ve only started settling into Dunagan’s There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn’t Talk: A Gustonbook, but already it’s taken its place next to Coolidge’s Guston’s Collected Writings (UC, 2010). Banes’ (copy of) Rodefer’s Four Lectures aside, “Writers paint, they don’t speak.”

Emily Pettit | Goat in the Snow | Birds, LLC | 2012
Ben Estes | Alan Felsenthal | The Song Cave | Sea Ranch

I’ve been in love with Pettit and her poems since I first read three of them, in the second issue of Seth Landman’s Invisible Ear, in October 2008. Her poetry workshop at Flying Object is a laboratory for making poets, and no wonder why: reading her poems taught me how to write. There are so many great Bens (at least ten), and Ben Estes, whose Cymbals (“Like a container for a flower inside of a flower.”) opened The Song Cave, is beyond exception. If Estes’ Lamp Like L’Map (Factory Hollow Press, 2009) is every indication, and it is, his The Strings of Walnetto Arrangements (Flowers and Cream, 2011) will be every sensation.  There are a few Alans, too, but only one this one. The ultimate symmetry would be an ultimate Song Cave; until then, the inaugural Sea Ranch, a split with his co-editor, is the best start imaginable. Long live, Song Cave, up with the Sea Ranch. P.S. Dos-a-dos are the new split 7”s. Flying Object paired James Copeland w/ Alex Phillips. I would like to hear Will Edmiston’s effing great Effie (3 Sad Tigers Press, 2011) b/w Lewis Freedman’s Freedman’s font-glossed Non-Symbolic Non Symbolic Non-Symbolic (for Catherine Malabou)

Renee Gladman | Event Factory | Dorothy, A Publishing Project | 2010
Rachel B. Glaser | Pee on Water | Publishing Genius | 2010

Prose by poets, does saying that make this not bending my own one-from-2011 rules? Whatever, Glaser is killing it in 2011: poems plenty, “Turid,” the soon famous “Ellen” story. Gladman, of course, is one of the Greats, and who wouldn’t have started a press, as Danielle Dutton (whose Sprawl, Siglio, 2010 fits right in here) did, to publish Gladman’s Ravicka trilogy? That the sequel, The Ravickians (Dorothy, 2011), is to be published on the same day as Gary Lutz’s Divorcer (Calamari Press, 2011) will make deciding what two books to read on that day very easy.

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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 – C.E. Putnam

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David Winters, dir. | RAQUEL! | 1970

Filmed in Acapulco, London, ,Mexico City, Paris, and Sun Valley, Idaho, USA! RAQUEL! is a 1970 made-for-TV variety special where Raquel skis in slo-mo soft power, sings with Tom Jones, does “numbers” with Bob Hope and John Wayne, and dances around the 1968 Mexico City Olympic park in a space-age-of-aquarius costume designed by Bob Mackie!

David Moe | Plug in the Electric Dictionary | The Community Press | 1973

“HOMEINGsplit it’s you circuits socrates golding fat take off next necks space
eggs built dostoevsky’s nostril SEEING CONSCIOUS solar sidereal thrill
twoways glaze pats increasing secrets be ouiji…”

Ethan Fugate | Cadence | Honey Hoggle | 2009

“Squid thoughts aren’t as impressive on
the deck of the boat
as they are under the water.”

Allison Cobb | Green-Wood | Factory School | 2010

“The first year I didn’t set foot inside the cemetery. The still smoking hole across the water held my attention, a smell curling inside the minds of the million–headed city, even in sleep

a weather breath resurrects

CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock | The City Real & Imagined | Factory School | 2010

“when will I
vanish at
all my
want
dear
impatient
city I
Love?”

“There is a dirty hole

There is something about to be

planted”

Edgar Allan Poe | Arthur Gordon Pym | Oxford | 1998

“So rapidly had these events passed, that we could scarcely believe in their reality, and were standing over the bodies of the dead in a species of stupid contemplation, when we were brought to recollection by the sound of shouts in the distance.”

Larry Eigner | another time in fragments | Fulcrum | 1967

“birds

are apples

an upward ground
the gray bark
spring direction”

D.C.A. Hillman | The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization | Thomas Dunne | 2008

“In writing The Chemical Muse, I wanted to show that recreational drugs were an integral aspect of the same societies that gave us valuable concepts like democracy and the scientific method. I wanted the modern West to see that its founding fathers were drug users, plain and simple; they grew the stuff, they sold the stuff, and most important, used the stuff.”

The Chemical Muse is an expanded version of a chapter in the author’s dissertation, a chapter that the Classics faculty required he remove in order to pass his dissertation exam! Academic Revenge!

Kevin Varrone | g-point almanac: passyunk lost | Ugly Duckling | 2010

“I felt what you felt: a ball in space

a great astrofuge.
I felt blue & white or wonder.”

Paul Nelson | A Time Before Slaughter | Apprentice House | 2010

Paul Nelson’s Patersonesque telling of the story of Auburn, Wa. (formerly Slaughter).

“Slaughter is the rush of Stuck through rocks on a rainy August  F r i d a y.”

Gaslamp Killer | All Killer. Finders Keepers Records 1-20 Mixed By The Gaslamp Killer | Twisted Nerve | 2009

Fantastic mix of retro-international-psych-rock sounds (Turkey / India / Pakistan) with lo-profile beats to string it all together. Fun, wonderful and surprising and every turn.

Example: Track 3 contains sounds from the following: Mustafa Özkent – Zeytinyagi (Fkr010) / Susan Christie – Europa (Poetry) (Fkr018) / Jir’ Slitr & Jir’ Sust- Sugar Stealers / Man With A Typewriter (Fkr013)

More C.E. Putnam here. His Attention Span for 2009, 2008. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Pattie McCarthy

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Anselm Berrigan | Free Cell | City Lights | 2009

“I do take relentless / as a compliment. All this work / dealing with making it work.”

Allison Cobb | Green-Wood | Factory School | 2010

“But every age has its ghosts, a kind of rage. The language.” “The word ‘forest’ itself forms a fence.”

CA Conrad & Frank Sherlock | The City Real & Imagined | Factory School | 2010

“‘Of / course they talk about genocide. / They’re Polish.’ The show ends. / Everything burns. A new set / is built for tomorrow.”

Sarah Dowling | Security Posture | Snare | 2009

“Makes a movement of hand toward // clothing that intervenes / and conforms exactly.”

Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Pitch: Drafts 77 – 95 | Salt | 2010

“Reduplicate the awkwardness. // If given text in a dream, try extra hard to read it.”

Susan Howe | Poems Found in a Pioneer Museum | Coracle | 2009

“It was the only thing she had left / from the journey across.”

Chris McCreary | Undone: a fakebook | furniture | 2010

“You recover / from upside // down & demand a bigger / engine.”

Hoa Nguyen | Hecate Lochia | Hot Whiskey | 2009

“Up nursing       then make tea / the word war is far”

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

“And you are a rare modern painting in the grand salon / And you are a wall of earth.”

Kaia Sand | Remember to Wave | Tinfish | 2010

“Inexpert, I / investigate // Inexpert, I / walk, and walk.”

Kevin Varrone | g-point almanac: Passyunk Lost | Ugly Duckling | 2010

“she said she grew up // when dodos were ubiquitous, / when snyder avenue was rome”

Karen Weiser | To Light Out | Ugly Duckling | 2010

“the chapel of a bird’s body / is any body / breathing with ink”

More Pattie McCarthy here. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2009 – Anselm Berrigan

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Will Alexander | “Exobiology as Goddess” from Exobiology as Goddess  | Manifest Press | 2005

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge | “The New Boys” | Brooklyn Rail | October 2008

Stacy Szymaszek | Hyperglossia | Litmus Press | 2009

Allen Ginsberg | “Television Was That Baby Crawling Toward The Death Chamber” from Planet News: poems 1961-1967 | City Lights

Douglas Oliver | “The Infant and The Pearl” from Selected Poems of Douglas Oliver | Talisman | 1996

Dana Ward | “Typing ‘Wild Speech’” | na | unpublished

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

Lawrence Giffin | Get the Fuck Back Into That Burning Plane | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2009

Marcella Durand | “Anatomy of Oil”  from Area  | Belladonna | 2008

CA Conrad | (Soma)tic Midge | Faux Press | 2008
CA Conrad | The Book of Frank   Chax 2009

Fred Moten | Hughson’s Tavern | Leon Works | 2008

John Coletti | Same Enemy Rainbow  | Fewer & Further 2009
John Coletti | Mum Halo | Rust Buckle | forthcoming

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood Editions | 2009

Frank Sherlock and Brett Evans | Ready to Eat Individual | Lavender Ink | 2008

Douglas Rothschild | Theogony | Subpress | 2009

Also: Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, Laird Hunt’s The Exquisite, If You Give A Moose A Muffin, Blackest Night #2, and Le Carre’s Smiley novels.

More Anselm Berrigan here.