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Attention Span 2011 | Daniel Bouchard

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Benjamin Friedlander | Citizen Cain | Salt | 2011

I used to think of “flarf’ as embodying the poetics of insincerity. Ben Friedlander’s book has changed my mind. This is a sincere book, and it’s really weird and wonderful. This stanza, opening the poem (title lifted from Baraka) “Somebody Blew Up America,” provides a kind of framework for the collection’s many modes: “The poem you just heard was ironic and this one is sincere. / How can you tell? Because it was written in ‘my’ voice.” Don’t ask the criteria for insincerity but rather think what the search terms might have been: “The special sin that arouses God’s anger is in reality an aborted baby.” That’s just language from the Web, right? How about “the sticky / white load he pumped on her toes. / Bookmark this site.” I’ve never read such a variety of contemporary voices commandeered in poems. Yet for all the noise that might suggest the poems read with consistent grace and an even pace despite their detachment from the Literary. And they’re hard voices to identify. Maybe it’s better not to think too much about who they may be or represent or where they come from, either as individuals or composites. The Web is dark and strange: your keyboard is a Ouija board that can summon a wide array of spirits. They show up and begin to reflect or speak to your preoccupations, even demons. Better to read with your eyes slightly out of focus (like being online too long) to get a picture of the poet shaping these poems (in 4, 3, or 2 line stanzas, almost exclusively) and the umami of sensibility. This is a good book of poetry. This is a funny book. “Remember Vietnam? No, not really. / But I do remember what shaq did / last year in the playoffs. Hoooooooo!” (16) Jewish culture, user feedback, user profiles, modern poetry, politics (“Senator shithead”), internet porn: not many books published today make me think ‘oh, I could never write this’ and also elicit respect in the form of envy. Pound appears throughout the book, a significantly higher number of times than placenta, and placenta is no small presence. Read “Alterity Cudgel,” “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,” and “Me and My Gang” (“Sexy Librarians of the Future \ are behind you, with a big strapon \ called Knowledge . . .”) and then just jump around. If someone who doesn’t regularly read poetry wants to know what book they should purchase by a living poet, Citizen Cain is a lively choice.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis | The Collage Poems of Drafts | Salt | 2011

It’s not a difficult shift from the thickness and rich verbal density of all the preceding of DuPlessis’s Drafts to this new mostly-visually based format. The mode of collage isn’t new to Drafts and the pictorial element (four color at that!) in this collection has strong ligatures cementing the continuity of the overall project. Somewhere she has said she thinks of Schwitters all the time, a claim substantiated and made quite apparent in the materials and arrangements of these works. Attentive readers will see familiar themes, processes and words sustained here from earlier incarnations and with a similar richness resulting: “A process of scraping, of ripping, of pasting. . . . Mite and mote.”

Edgar Lee Masters | The Great Valley | MacMillan | 1916

Published a year after Spoon River Anthology, Masters broadens his sustained meditation on American history and society in a book that is very long and very prosaic. But its flatness is somewhat countered by the sheer range of interest the poet takes in so many things, and the belief that there is so much to give voice to, and so many worthy. The title refers to Illinois, and the elegies within sing of long forgotten figures, mostly local. The Lincoln–Douglas debates, Dreiser, and Robert Ingersoll are among the better known subjects. (I couldn’t help but think of Sufjan Stevens’s Illinoise throughout.) Honestly, I lost interest about halfway thru the book but I am glad I read the entire thing. Masters is a lot more than just the famous Spoon River. There is a fat selected poems waiting to be created. It should aim to bring the best of his work back into view.

Bryher | The Fourteenth of October | Pantheon | 1952
Bryher | Roman Wall | Pantheon | 1954
Bryher | Beowulf | Pantheon | 1956
Bryher | Ruan | Pantheon | 1960

Byher’s historic novels have a pattern: a boy’s coming of age tale in which he is caught up in the forces of history. His native land is in the throes of turmoil: Saxon England fighting the Norman invasion; a Roman outpost fighting the plundering Goths; London during the Blitz; a druid heir fleeing the conversion of Cornwall to Christianity. In each narrative there is a slackness or incoherency to the society which makes it vulnerable. Old ties and traditions will soon be washed away. There is usually one character who knows better and can see the peril coming but no one will listen to them and then it’s too late. In this, Bryher herself is represented directly. She wrote in her memoirs that she saw WWII coming years before it began. But, alas, no one would listen. She acknowledges a deep influence by G.A. Henty, a nineteenth century novelist who wrote adventure stories for juveniles. Bryher’s attention to detail for what life may have been like for common people at turning points of history across many centuries makes her stories vivid and interesting. All of the books can be read rather quickly. The Player’s Boy and The Coin of Carthage are among her best. Her two memoirs, The Heart of Artemis and The Days of Mars, are not to be missed.

Brook Holgum, ed. | The Capilano Review: George Stanley issue | Vancouver | 2011

A festschrift for George Stanley, San Francisco-born Canadian poet: interviews, photographs, recollections, dedicatory poems and critical takes. As if that were not enough the issue also contains the debut of Stanley’s serial poem After Desire which alone is worth the price of admission.

Humbert Wolfe | Humoresque | E Benn | 1926

Wikipedia describes him as “an Italian-born English poet, man of letters and civil servant, from a Jewish family background.” A contemporary of Pound and Eliot, Wolfe’s work falls to the lighter side of poetry. Prolific in the 1920s and 30s (he died in 1940) he left a largely forgettable body of work. But once in a while there is a gem:

I looked back suddenly
into the empty room
and saw the lamp that I had lit
still shining on the little table by the window
and throwing its light on the tumbled sheets of paper
on which I had been writing.

And I felt as though long years ago a man,
whom I had know very little,
had lighted that lamp,
and sat by the window writing and believing that he was a poet,
and then he came out of the room and found the letter.

He would not go into the room again:
And not he, but I will go in softly
And put out the lamp,
And lay aside the useless paper.

Joseph Torra | What’s So Funny | Pressed Wafer | 2011

This short novel is the narrative of a washed-up comedian on the verge of quitting his trade. Angry, depressed, misanthropic, not even his trademark biting humor gives him satisfaction anymore. “Is there anything more sickening than a couple falling in love?” His marriage is long over, his family distant, dead or in decline. “Could there be anything sicker than the concept of baptism? That some precious newborn baby is born in sin, and has to be cleansed?” The pathos of the story, the loneliness and sadness of an individual who can’t see or won’t admit or simply can’t overcome the causes of his suffering, is nearly drowned by the humor with which the material, and life, attempts to redeem itself. Finally you realize you are reading the transcript of one long comedy routine. Childhood, sex, race, religion, dating, therapy, war, porn, the usual and not so usual material of stand up, are all grist for the mill. “If everyone would lie about Santa, they’ll lie about God.”

Joe Elliot | Homework | Lunar Chandelier | 2010

Cedar Sigo | Stranger in Town | City Lights | 2010

Jennifer Moxley | Coastal | The Song Cave | 2011


Daniel Bouchard’s poetry books include The Filaments (Zasterle Press) and Some Mountains Removed (Subpress). He edited The Poker for many years. An essay on George Stanley’s work appeared recently in The Capilano Review, and an essay on Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts is posted at Jacket2.

Bouchard’s Attention Span for 201020092005. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Eric Baus

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Amina Cain | I Go To Some Hollow | Les Figues | 2009

Andrea Rexilius | To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation | Rescue | 2011

Catherine Wagner | My New Job | Fence | 2009

Cedar Sigo | Stranger In Town | City Lights | 2010

Farid Matuk | This Isa Nice Neighborhood | Letter Machine | 2010

HR Hegnauer | Sir | Portable Press At Yo-Yo Labs | 2011

Marina Temkina | What Do You Want? | Ugly Duckling | 2009

Mathias Svalina | I Am A Very Productive Entrepeneur | Mud Luscious | 2011

Renee Gladman | Event Factory | Dorothy | 2010

Tim Dlugos | A Fast Life: Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos | Nightboat | 2011


More Eric Baus here.

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

Attention Span 2011 | John Sakkis

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Bernadette Mayer | Midwinter Day | New Directions | 1999

If the legend is true, it’s a crime this book doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page. Written in 1 Epic day. Seriously? It took me two days to read the book, not quite on par with Mayer, but who is ever on par with Mayer? I feel like Eric Drooker’s talents would have been better spent illustrating Midwinter Day.

Gilbert Hernandez | Luba | Fantagraphics | 2009

It’s hard for me to read Los Bros Hernandez in the key of anything other than elegy, especially with middle brother Gilbert. The kind of elegy that is less about the passing of persons than the passing of time. Luba has aged since Palomar and we’ve aged with her. Telenovela as descriptor is sort of a lazy cliché. I’ve never cared more about a comic book character or the world they inhabit. The only thing missing are rockets.

Jim Goad | Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability To Absorb The World’s Guilt | Feral House | 2002

Controversial polemical writer Jim Goad gets very polemical in this aptly titled autobiography. Extremely raw, pissed off, beautifully disturbing soap boxing prose from PC public enemy #1. Jim Goad is a bit of a martyr/ cult figure who uses facts and stats to back his controversial castigations. I’m a JG fan, it’s not a popular stance but so what? Get lost.

Julien Poirier | El Golpe Chileno | Ugly Duckling | 2010

“I told Micah last night that my new book would be a haunted house.” Berkeley-based poet Julian Poirier’s El Golpe Chileño is filled with the ghosts of past and present. Essentially a bildungsroman, it tracks Poirier’s protagonist’s growth from youthful journeyman into adulthood though a kind of mixed-genre Theatre of the Absurd. Vaudeville, comics, memoir, film pitch, epistolary, failed novel, poetry, the carnival, and travelogue are all wielded brilliantly in the hands of Poirier, making for a phantasmagoric reading experience where the whole emerges defiantly greater than the sum of its parts. Poirier writes, “I turned my whole brain into a city and wrote down everything I saw happening there.” And indeed it certainly feels that way—the book is ripe with the names of places, of friends living and dead; with lists of dates and years; and with drawings and photographs, making up what Poirier somewhat obliquely labels “The Stolen Universe.” El Golpe Chileño is truly a success of form and content, of the high and low, of pop and elegy.

Ted Berrigan | The Collected Poems Of Ted Berrigan | California | 2007

Iconic LA radio DJ Rodney Bingenheimer over uses the term God-Head to the point of parody. I have never colloquially used the term God-Head. Ted Berrigan is a God-Head. Call me corny but jeez-Louise TB is the real deal Yahweh-Dome. He makes “saturation job” as sexy a thing as it sounds, which is exactly what the Collected Poems begs of you. Hands down this is my “if you were stranded on an island and you could only have one book….”

Matthew Stokoe | Cows | Akashic | 2011

I very seriously almost puked 3 times while reading this masterpiece of gore and perversity. You know how the “dinner table scene” in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes you want to take a cold shower with your eyes closed while reciting the Lord’s Prayer? Well, there are multiple dinner table scenes in Cows that would give Leatherface that need-to-scrub-my-body-with-a-Brillo-Pad kind of feeling. “Hagbeast.”

Cedar Sigo | Stranger In Town | City Lights | 2010

I went to the book release party at City Lights with Lindsey Boldt and Steve Orth. Cedar read with Andrew Joron. A totally packed house with a full staircase bleed over to boot. Afterwards everyone went to Specs across the street for drinks. Sitting at the round table next to us, and totally unrelated to our after party were Jack Hirschman, Sarah Menefee and I think Neeli Cherkovoski. North Beach really felt like “North Beach” that night.

Ronaldo Wilson | Poems Of The Black Object | Futurepoem | 2009

I read this book in Miami. I was in Miami in November and I was sweating. I have a photo buried somewhere on Flickr with POTBO firmly clenched between my teeth. It’s the kind of book that induces some serious Bruxism. The kind of teeth gnashing you do at 3AM in a warehouse in Oakland with your best friends, not the kind that takes you to the dentist. Plus, break dancing poems!

Scott Walker | In 5 Easy Pieces | Ume Imports | 2006

I was talking with KUSF (in Exile) DJ Zoe Brezsny today about how you either love SW or hate him. About how I could completely understand/hear how some people hate him, and how you maybe just had to be vibing a certain kind of vibration to really dig him, and how the both of us were absolutely vibrational for Mr. Walker. I think if I knew about Scott Walker as a teenager I might have skipped the whole Jim Morrison “American Poet” thing. I recently ordered a Scott Walker t-shirt online and I’m not embarrassed by it. I’m a fan boy all over again. SW freaks me out with his brilliance, and then keeps freaking me out again and again. Have you ever heard “Lullaby By by by”? If there was ever a song for headphones this is it, an absolutely haunted masterpiece.

David Levi Strauss and Benjamin Hollander, eds. | Acts #5 | 1986

Because of this interview called “Dear Lexicon” with Michael Palmer by Benjamin Hollander and David Levi Strauss. I need to get a hold of MP/BH/DLS to see if I can republish as an issue of BOTH BOTH. An incredibly discursive conversation around the Analytic Lyric, this has been a primary source text for my poetics over the last 10 years. If you’d like a photocopied version please email me at and I’d be more than stoked to send along.

Patrick James Dunagan | There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn’t Talk: A Gustonbook | Post-Apollo | 2011

Me and Micah and Logan Koreber and Patrick Dunagan were planning on making a skateboard movie called Pushing Mongo. It will be a day-in-the-life of movie. We’ll skate from the Safeway curb, to SOMA down Market on the clickity-bricks, down to the EMB, up and along the Piers all the way to AT&T Park back up to the Mission for burritos then off the skateboards hiking up the hill to grab a beer in Bernal Heights at Wild Side West. Then bombing back down the hill heading towards 16th, almost getting hit by a USPS carrier van, Logan and I will get separated from Micah and Dunagan, but we’ll all end up somehow at Kilowatt for more beers, bros and brouhaha. It’s going to be an epic movie with a happy ending.”


John Sakkis is the author of Rude Girl. His translation of Demosthenes Agrafiotis’s Maribor won the 2011 Northern California Book Award (NCBA) for poetry in Translation. Under the moniker BOTH BOTH he has curated various projects including: blog, reading series, music collaboration and since 2005 a magazine. He lives in the Oakland, CA.

Sakkis’s Attention Span for 2010200720062005. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Joshua Edwards

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Srikanth Reddy | Voyager | California | 2011

At the time of this writing I’m in Berlin, and Reddy’s triple-erasure of Kurt Waldheim’s memoir would be an especially poignant reread here . . . had I the foresight to bring it along. Sadly, I didn’t bring any books except for the collected Yeats, so I’ve gotta depend on my shoddy memory. That said, before I left I’d read Voyager a couple of times already, and it’s one of my very favorite books of the past few years—a haunting portrayal of individual consciousness and collective ghosts.

Anne Carson | Glass, Irony and God | Vintage | 1995

Glass, Irony and God helps me read better and travel with a more astonished eye, and Carson’s wry, hyper-aware meditations are good for the (dare I say) soul.

Paul Valéry, trans. various | Selected Writings of Paul Valéry | New Directions | 1964

“All powerful, inescapable astral strangers, / Deigning to let shine far off in time / Something supernaturally sublime”

John Milton | The Complete Poems | Penguin Classics | 1999

Samson Agonistes and Paradise Lost are fundamental influences to the verse novella I’m at work on, so I’ve been living in a cool Miltonic shadow for the better part of two years.

Coral Bracho, trans. Forrest Gander | Firefly Under the Tongue | New Directions | 2008

Coral Bracho read in San Francisco earlier this year with another great Mexican poet, María Baranda (whose book, Ficticia, I translated), and it was wonderful to become reacquainted with the luscious, inimitable poems in this collection through her voice. The work in Firefly Under the Tongue is full of surprises of sound, phrases that redouble and move between meanings, and astonishing mindfulness. Forrest Gander’s translation is excellent.

Brandon Shimoda | The Girl Without Arms | Black Ocean | 2010

These poems come from out of the sacrebleu. The Girl Without Arms is intensely lyrical, disturbing, funny, and weirdly warm. Its syntax is slippery and unique. Its voice is that of a brilliant mind that perhaps belongs to another era wrestling with a maximalist world (perhaps akin to Ceravolo in this way). Shimoda’s got another book coming out soon—I can’t wait.

William Shakespeare | Macbeth | Royal Shakespeare Company | 2011

My partner Lynn and I went to an amazing production of Macbeth in Stratford this summer. It was especially good to see since I reread the play a month or so before, and I could therefore follow what was going on instead of getting lost in the play’s language, which is what usually happens to me with Shakespeare. As expected, it was creepy and exceedingly bloody.

Sappho, trans. various | Various | Various | Various

For quite some time this spring I always had an edition of Sappho in my backpack and a few others on my desk.

Cedar Sigo | Stranger in Town | City Lights | 2010

A lot of people told me about Cedar Sigo and I read a great chapbook of his published by House Press, then I got hold of Stranger in Town. His poems are supercharged with energy and life—they’re romantic, funny, and personal, and they hearken back to the sixties while also seeming to come from a parallel universe. Also, they’ve got great titles.

Alan Gilbert | Late in the Antennae Fields | Futurepoem | 2011

I’m always on the lookout for Alan Gilbert’s poems, and I think I’d read most of Late in the Antennae Fields before the collection came out. It’s great to now have all the work in one place—the poems accumulate force as the collection goes along, and I recommend reading it all in one sitting, then going back over each poem slowly to enjoy the book’s astonishing images and turns of phrase.

Susan Howe | That This | New Directions | 2011

I haven’t read as much of Susan Howe’s work as I feel I should have. Luckily, a friend of mine in Berlin has That This, and she lent it to me. It’s a beautiful book, extremely nuanced and challenging.


Joshua Edwards is the author of Campeche and the publisher of Canarium Books. Edwards’s Attention Span for 2010, 2009, 2007. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | James Wagner

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Cedar Sigo | Stranger In Town | City Lights | 2010

Elegant, whimsical. Checked humor. Clear attention to craft. A talented poet.

Christine Hume | Shot | Counterpath | 2010

Slowly building a surreal temple of exquisite disturbances. House Flies, Alaska, now the Night.

David Lespiau, trans. Keith Waldrop | Four Cut-ups, or The Case of the Restored Volume | Burning Deck | 2010

My mini-review here.

Leslie Scalapino | Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows | Starcherone | 2010

High art: imaginative and political. Her understanding of Time-In-The-Sentence is what makes the stories go.

 Lissa Wolsak | Squeezed Light—Selected Poems 1994-2005 | Station Hill | 2010

Sublime writing. My review.

Jena Osman | The Network | Fence | 2010

Atmospheric realism of uncanny stitching. Surgical.

Eléna Rivera | Remembrance Of Things Plastic | LRLE | 2010

Graceful, ghostly, poetic memoir.

Various authors, ed. Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young | A Megaphone: Some Enactments, Some Numbers, and Some Essays about the Continued Usefulness of Crotchless-pants-and-a-machine-gun Feminism | Chain Links | 2011

My mini-review here.

Nada Gordon | Ululations blog | Blogspot/Google | 2011

The raw, vital poetry.

Alta Ifland | Voice of Ice | Les Figues | 2007

Crystalline, carefully laid, prose poems.

Stephen Ratcliffe | [assorted daily poems] | Facebook | 2010-11

Fugue of viewing / sensing / intellecting.


James Wagner is the author of the chapbooks Query/Xombies and Geisttraum (Esther Press, 2010), the short-story collection Work Book (Nothing Moments, 2007), and three poetry collections: Trilce (Calamari Press, 2006), After the Giraffes (Blazevox, 2005), and the false sun recordings (3rd bed, 2003). Wagner’s Attention Span for 2010, 200920082007200620052004. Back to 2011 directory.