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Attention Span 2009 – Juliana Spahr

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I keep thinking to myself that it has been a really amazing year of reading for me. I have loved so much of what I have read. I have no complaints. I’m not sure I have read a book I thought was a waste of my time all year. I think I feel this way because I have had trouble reading because I have a two year old who is at that stage where if I am reading in his presence, he comes up and grabs the book and says no, no, no. Reading feels a little illicit right now when I get to do it. Thus all the more sweet. So I should also confess that I think I might write this very differently if I was reading more inclusively. There are many books that came out this year that I have not yet gotten to read. I have an exciting large stack to read.

Mark McGurl | The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing | Harvard | 2009

I confess that I have at moments gotten bogged down in the long readings of Thomas Wolfe and Flannery O’Conner. Mainly because I’m not a super huge fan of that work and so not very well read in it. But the money shot, if one can say that, is the analysis of what he calls “program fiction.” So much here that feels right. Mainly that the university system has shaped US writing dramatically in the last half of the 20th century. Also really interested in his talk about how this fiction has a sort of generic localism (my term not his). But at same time I find McGurl’s respect for “program fiction” super frustrating. He keeps talking about how he likes it! And I’m so suspicious of the writing that this system has produced (not the teaching of writing, that is another complicated story). Primarily because it is a sort of generic local writing that has isolated writing from more activist and urgent concerns.

M Nourbese Philip | Zong! | Wesleyan | 2008

Super obsessed with this book. It has everything. Anti-imperial righteousness, avant garde extremity, ghosts or channeled beings, lists, etc. I love how she “recovers” the names of those lost on the Zong.

Ian Baucom | Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History | Duke | 2005

Also about the Zong and the development of credit around the slave trade. He talks a little about Philip’s book. I was reading it just as the financial markets were collapsing.

Renee Gladman | To After That | Atelos | 2008

Gladman at her best.

Aaron Cometbus | Cometbus | na | na

Joshua Clover gave Chris Nealon the issue of Cometbus on the Berkeley bookstores. And I had to go out and get my own copy. And then I started buying more and more copies to give to people because it such a lovely history of the complications around Telegraph Avenue.

Felix Feneon | Novels in Three Lines | NYR Classics | 2007

Reznikoff-style. Or I should say Reznikoff is Feneon-style. Classic playful social realist writing.

Mark Nowak | Coal Mountain Elementary | Coffee House | 2009

It surprised me! I don’t need to say anymore. I am so in love with this book right now.

Roberto Bolano | 2666 | Farrar, Straus, Giroux | 2008

I know, everyone else has already said all that needs to be said. I will add this though: there is no other male writer of women that is better than Bolano. Plus I keep rereading the sermon in the third book.

David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm Press | 2009

Juggling, with disgust.

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

I want to say something about beauty and lyric but I feel that would piss her off. But really, the book made my heart happy.

C. D. Wright | Rising, Falling, Hovering | Coffee House | 2008

How the world defines the personal. Also a really beautiful book. With hope for poetry despite its claim “What is said has been said before / This is no time for poetry.”

More Juliana Spahr here.

Attention Span 2009 – Kevin Killian

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David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm Press | 2009

David Buuck’s first book is relatively slim—well it’s normal size, not one of the 110 page behemoths that pass as regulation fare nowadays—but it is exquisitely focused and honed in on the torment of being alive in the world we live in, a citizen of the evil state of America. And a vulnerable human cell heavily implicated in capitalism. As a summary of the different formal experiments Buuck has tried out in the past ten years this book is marvelously effective, for he is the most impatient of poets and the one most disgusted with his own efforts. “Stanzas in Mediation 15-20” (“The Suck”) is my favorite of these dramatizations of self loathing. “Sure–I am/ a poet—against/ the war & a poet/ against “poets”/ “against the war” & I’m a poet against the post-/ war & well/ I’m not really/ much of a poet/ either, but & yet/ I’m just trying to do my part/ by Iraqifying/ my CD collection ]…]”–it just goes on like this taking strips of his flesh with it. When I first met him his Hamlet nature fascinated me, his mercurial balance of air and water, and now years later he steps forth, a Hamlet with balls.

Garrett Caples | Complications | Meritage Press | 2007

Garrett’s my editor—at City Lights, where we will publish my new book Impossible Princess in the fall—so by rights I should leave him off this list, but if I couldn’t write about my friends’ books my list would be tiny indeed, and Steve Evans, if you enforced that rule on “Attention Span” then you could show all the books reviewed on one screen. As I cast my gaze on the books I’m writing about this time around I see to my shame that indeed they are practically all by my friends, except for one girl whom I have never met, and one guy whom I only met once and yet was captivated by his dark intense Nijinsky grace. Does that count? Garrett Caples wrote Complications during a time of worldwide grief and mourning, and during a time when the culture figures he admired were too slipping away, as though they knew—and the elegiac factor in Complications is high. Thom Gunn, Barbara Guest, Robert Creeley, Philip Lamantia, all ghosts now, are invoked without sentiment and with plenty of wry humor. Caples’ experiments with sound and the slipping image are well known, and here they really get a workout: those of you who have read “Dub Song of Prufrock Shakur” know what I’m talking about. And there are also lovely straight essays here (if I could apply for a second the dubious adjective straight to this writing) which I always enjoy in a book of poetry.

Norma Cole | Natural Light | Libellum Press | 2009

Norma also has a new book from City Lights, a book of selected poems called Where Shadows Will, 1988-2008, which makes my mouth gape, as though to remember that I met her before she had written any books and was just starting to publish after a career as a painter. Well, I don’t have the space here to do more than recommend this one wholeheartedly— though I wonder why there’s nothing in Where Shadows Will from Norma’s greatest work, the epic verse drama Art Colony Survivor (2002), the play I wrote with her over months and months of laughter and tears? In the meantime I have thought often about another new book by her, Natural Light. Cole strikes out as she has in all of her books in a new direction, and several at once— her mind is like a weathervane that spins in a hurricane, unerringly finding the rough underlining to any solace. “Where Shadows Will” does a decent job of excerpting from Natural Light, but it leaves out the majestic centerpiece, the final serial piece Collective Memory. Collective Memory is a book of mnemonic that lavishes attention on the smallest elements of our tongue— on the individual alphabetic character. Like bp nichol her countryman, Cole understands why petulant pixies clamor for Frosted Flakes. Who is JJ? What happens when a little inverted c is placed over the actual c in the proper name Bavčar? Well, she is a wonder and I’ve anagrammed her own name endless times, clear moon, name color, coral omen, elm corona, need I say more.

Kate Greenstreet | Case Sensitive | Ahsahta Press | 2006

Kate Greenstreet’s first book came as a surprise to me, having been burned by a few other Ahsahta publications in earlier years. Now I see thanks to a handy list in the back of the book, that there have been just as many Ahsahta titles I’ve enjoyed as the ones I remembered dismissing. Just goes to show me how easily stereotype draws me in. I wonder how many folks think of Krupskaya in the same way. Tried one, didn’t care for it, the rest are probably all shit as well. In Kate Greenstreet’s case, the book itself is physically lovely with that thick lustrous yellowy paper that’s like a cross between buttermilk and cheesecloth. Above all else her book reminded me of the classic work from Kathleen Fraser I first learned to love in the early 80s, and it even comes with Fraser’s own [brackets] and signs of domestic life made fraught by a highly tuned consciousness, and her overheard scrap[s of enigmatic Antonioniesque fragments of conversation— and with a blurb by Fraser on top of it all. But she is more than— I mean other than—a poet in the How/ever mode, she has her own prosody (seen at its best in a small poem like “phone tap,” so perfect it must have been written with a diamond on glass—and her own trips to take and dare.

Kate Greenstreet | This Is Why I Hurt You | Lame House | 2008

In five sections, This Is Why I Hurt You acts as a severe corrective to the pingings of consciousness featured in Case Sensitive, Greenstreet’s previous book. The flatness and foundness of the material here allows for all sorts of interpretation, but it beats a path away from the numinous, into a celebration of the reflexivity of ordinary USA syntax. “He had these big sharp claws on his hooves, and sometimes he’d put one u[p on me.” Didn’t I read this, in Little House in the Big Woods? “I understood it as the part of our mind where art comes from.”  That’s from William James via Gertrude Stein. “And I hoped he wouldn’t scratch me with them, because that would really hurt.”  I don’t know, Bastard Out of Carolina? American sigils fill this little book to the point of bursting, like fifteen sweeps down my chimney. That’s the fairy tale of the US—it will leave a mark.

Kreg Hasegawa | The New Crustacean | Green Zone | 2008

This young man is writing flash fiction that sits right on the chasm between the prose poem and the traditional short story. Is it parody? Not quite, though Hasegawa delights in his puns and his wordplay, enough to allow it to direct the action from the inside out. “What poetry,” he asks, “can you quote from that can’t possibly poison you back?”  So there’s an awareness of the risk involved in writing, a picnic phenomenology. One long story—I use the word “long: in quotes because most of these stories could be written on the surface of an aspirin with a laser beam—one long story is the title piece, “The New Crustacean,” in which a traveler, meeting with a terrible accident (or other trauma?) becomes the victim of a pair of bad Samaritans in khaki. I’m still scratching my head about how beautiful it is. On another front he uses his close watch over words as a strategy for characterization, or the sensuality that leads from it. “Her life was something I had glazed myself with, or poured myself over, slowly, like gravy. I was something to make meat moist.”  You don’t often hear people reveal so much of themselves, not even in fiction, and definitely not in poetry. Grosbeaks fly in and out of the stories like the moths in Robin Blaser’s Moth Poem. This guy Hasegawa has it, as my little nephew says, going on.

Donato Mancini | Æthel | New Star Books | 2007

At Naropa, Allen Ginsberg spoke of Gertrude Stein’s project as “building little sculptures out of words.” I thought of his, well perhaps rather patronizing description when trying to describe to a former student just what Donato Mancini’s book Wilcox Æthel is all about. It’s a little difficult to show you what he’s doing without illustrations, but luckily Johanna Drucker has written it up on the back of the book and I can crib from her. She avers that Æthel is based on Mancini’s “appropriation of typefaces” and that he uses type we’re used to in other contexts to stand on its head our conventional wisdom on them. In practice even I can see that Mancini twists, stretches, reverses and entwines these fonts into garlands and blobs to satirize our preoccupation with reading itself, for one can barely make out a single word, though each poem has suggestions of words in it. Rather like birds building nests from particles that top scientists might be able to identify individually. Dodie and I printed some selections of Æthel in our zine, Mirage #4/Period[ical]. We’re baby boomers so we recognized the font Jim Morrison and the Doors used again and again as their logo, but what Mancini did with it is provocation in the highest.

Filip Marinovich | Zero Readership| Ugly Duckling | 2008

I had this book and couldn’t remember how I had it, even though the inscription was a warm one. Then it came to me like a flashback in a Resnais film—me, like Emmanuelle Riva, distracted, at Canessa Park the city’s most unreliable art gallery, at a poetry reading. Him, Filip Marinovich, perfectly pleasant and gamin offering me his book in good faith I imagine, but me preoccupied by professional problems hardly gave him the time of day. A curtain of shame falls across Emmanuelle Riva’s piquant features. She lies to friends, pretends she doesn’t care. In the meantime the book grows bigger every day in her hands. Well it is, as he had told her, “an epic,” a massive, oversized account of poetic activity in Montenegro, Belgrade, New York, the savage capitals of torn and bruised faith. Marinovich’s soulful, notebooky lyrics etch out the struggle of the artist in hard times and the refugee making his way from palace to soup kitchen with an élan invincible. You can feel the slushy snow, you can smell the smoke, you can certainly take or leave the hardboiled Serbian refugee family with their sage advice and their magic realism and Grammas Nada and Mercy. The epic is structured in roughly the same proportions as Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, as an accumulation of mass leading to apocalyptic takeoff, but in Marinovich’s hands this progression turns into a “new tune in the oxygen mix.” Well done дечко!

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

Alana Wilcox has again designed what seems like a perfect book, and it’s not magenta but rather a yellowish greenish chartreuse halfway between pear and olive—thus the suggestion of the magenta fairly pops out like one of those old Jasper Johns’ paintings of the Canadian flag. Robertson’s seventh book of poetry works differently than some of her others, and it mostly nearly approaches the way other people make up books of poetry, by accretion, a drifting into the harbor of the book the isolated moments of a lifetime of work. But hers are not like yours or mine, instead this is the work of one who can say with some pride, “My fidelity is my own disaster.”  Its a heraldic book, but as its title suggests, a sassy, almost a Debbie Allen sort of book too. It might be her best book!  If not, I predict that it will vie with a few others as many people’s favorite book by her. Robertson is coming from a place in which a tormented silence insists, “When women are exiled it seems normal,” and these poems are the tufts of marsh grass on which, like Eliza, the exile finds her footing in the rush of the restaurant/river.

Jared Stanley | Book Made of Forest | Salt Cambridge | 2009

If I ever publish another book I want Graham Foust and Bhanu Kapil to write blurbs for it!  Jared Stanley, on top of winning the Crashaw prize that resulted in the publication of this book, Foust and Kapil wrote these great blurbs on top of it. Now as for Crashaw, I’m looking and looking and it took me nearly a week of re-reading the entertaining and exciting poems of Book Made of Forest, and I just wasn’t feeling the “Crashaw” reference, but then it came to me… The historical Crashaw, who lived nearly 400 years ago, wrote as many poems after turning Roman Catholic as he did before it—poems of objects joked together in the metaphysical style, poems in which a simple comparison balloons out concentrically into a dirigible capable of lifting the planet off its hinges. Thus the play Foust makes out of Stanley’s title, the book made of forest which Foust examines in the Crashevian style, relinquishing his hold on the metaphor to Arshile Gorky’s notorious boast of destruction. “I love it,” reads one of Stanley’s poems, in its entirety, “it’s so dead/ it’s straightforward.”  I admire this continual stretching for it, and for the most part Stanley succeeds in the form of his creation. The only thing he can’t do, or hardly ever, is finish a poem as resoundingly as it begins. Maybe that’s the point, in which case, OK.

Suzanne Stein | Hole in Space | OMG! | 2009

“You went to the conference speculating on the expanded field of writing, and I went to work.” The truth is, some of us have to go to work, but Suzanne Stein’s little chapbook, produced by Brandon Brown’s ingenious OMG! press, punches a hole in space and into the formulation. You might call this a conceptual piece of writing, certainly it winds up with a  eerie J B Priestley hole in time, for Stein takes us to a November 2008 event at the Poetry Project in New York, where she is delivering a talk in cold Manhattan, while in southern California fires are burning down whole coastal regions. The talk apes ordinary human speech, but it has an aspect of prophecy to it, Edgar Cayce the Sleeping prophet, for Stein announces that in four months time she will repeat every word of the talk a Manhattan tech is now recording, in an art gallery space in San Francisco. The second half of the book gives us the text of her San Francisco talk, and for those of us who were there at Canessa Park, the book presents an eerie souvenir of one occasion when the past completely predicated the present. We all know there are scripts we are doomed to repeat, but Hole in Space makes it all come real, the tangle at the end of the mind. And yes, that was the gallery space in which young Filip Marinovich and I shared one stolen moment of brief encounter.

More Kevin Killian here.

Attention Span 2009 – CA Conrad

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Soma)tic Reading Enhancements
:an introductory note:

(Soma)tic Reading Enhancements are an extension of my (Soma)tic Poetics and exercises, in fact they’re actually not just an extension but are the poetics themselves, as the same praxis applies, for the origin of writing is locked with the origin of reading. As the writing of (Soma)tics is an engagement with the thing of things and the spirit of things, so is (Soma)tic Reading Enhancements.

The enhancements for each book were chosen intuitively, rather than randomly, a structure derived from initial sensations upon receiving a particular book. It is my wish as a poet to encourage the readers to not be passive, and to take credit for a poem’s absorption. After all, we each bring a unique set of experiences and circumstances to filter and digest poems, making them part of ourselves in our own way. Try these (Soma)tic Reading Enhancements, and maybe you will want to alter the enhancement as you read, or create a different one for yourself. Let’s encourage one another to have full participatory poetry reading! These books are some of my favorite books published in 2009, and the year is barely half over. I imagine poetry lovers a hundred years away looking back and saying 2009 was a great year for poetry!

To the muscle that bends language,

CAConrad

*

Stacy Szymaszek | Hyperglossia | Litmus | 2009

Boil 4 tablespoons of whole cloves in a quart of water. Boil on high flame for 5 minutes. Shut flame off and let the infusion cool to a hot/warm drinkable temperature. Now, VIGOROUSLY brush your teeth and gums for a full five minutes. Brush, brush, brush hard, brush, YEAH, REALLY BRUSH tooth by tooth and GUMS, especially give the gums an intense, hard brushing. Now, sit down and take a mouthful of the clove infusion, but don’t swallow, just let it soak into the freshly brushed teeth and gums. Then SPIT IT INTO an empty pan or bucket. Start reading, feeling the clove treatment TINGLE and soothe, and move your lips deliberately, and tongue, whisper the poems, speak them, whisper. Take another mouthful of your clove infusion, AND THIS TIME VIGOROUSLY swish it in your mouth, between your teeth, and from cheek to cheek, really swish it around, then SPIT IT INTO your bucket. Whisper the next poem, then read it again with a louder voice. Stop midway, maybe at page 55, the poem ending, “hemorrhage / of / air / into everyone’s / sky ” and make some more clove infusion, but this time for a nice footbath. Scrub your feet VIGOROUSLY before dipping them into the hot clove infusion. Ah, now continue. Occasionally flip to the cover and say aloud “BETTY’S REVENGE!” which is the name of the painting on the cover! Are you FILLING with the sensations of poetry and clove infusion? “a threat designated me at birth / attuned to close-calls / and violent eruptions of selfhoods / built on faults / to treat with a homeopathic / sibilant whisper / sssss / achieve / a hatred sealant”

Nathaniel Siegel | Tony | Portable Press @ Yo Yo Labs | 2009

You need a can of whipped cream, as we’re working with the lower chakras. Put a plastic garbage bag under a chair and get naked. Don’t be shy, I’m not asking you to do this on stage, you’re alone, you’re safe, IT’S GREAT! Shake your whipped cream and squirt a good lather of it on the seat of your chair, and the back of the chair. Sit down gently, gently into the whipped cream seat. Did you ever sit on a lather of whipped cream before to read poetry? If not, an entire new file of memory will be created in your brain. Every once in awhile spray a little more whipped cream here and there, and move your limbs and back into it, READ ALOUD while doing so, and READ LOUD AS YOU CAN as a matter of fact. Midway through the book, somewhere near the stanza ending, “manager driving me home / putting music on / not getting he’s trying to tell me something” stand and feel the whipped cream like a luxurious and strange garment. If you’re adventurous, as I hope you are, try gently sticking the whipped cream nozzle into your asshole and inject the creamy dairy product up there. Go ahead, remember, no one’s looking. NOW sit back down. How is that? It’s really good, isn’t it? Admit it, it’s good, right? Whipped cream enema, something everyone would love if they gave it a shot. You’ll never forget this marvelous book, “be caught off guard in a pool hall a naked guy / hold my friend all night until she goes for her AIDS test / hold my friends hand 48 hours in a coma no sleep / a vision of her the sand: light lifting up a reflection a lake”

Frank Sherlock | Over Here | Factory School | 2009

Is there a shopping mall near you? I went to one in Philadelphia called The Gallery for this book. Shopping malls are filled with the strangest opportunities to engage poems anew. The elevator in this mall was clear glass, and I would get on, stand facing the mall below, and read. People would get on, and it would move up, then down, then be still for a little while as I read, “It is difficult to / provide anything / more than skeleton / for the peace / though this skin / is seeded w/ nerve / endings flinching / at the prospect / of touch” Have you ever hid in the middle of a round rack of pants for sale? The busy department store was perfect for hiding, reading, smelling the fresh cotton and polyester, possibly made by very tired hands, “The genocide / comics / are lullabies / a rest / from hearts / from fatigues” In the furniture department there are very comfortable chairs to read in, “The void is here the invisible distance that makes this aesthetic boom / Shatters dispersal of selves figure into a common finger tongue brain” Near the pet food you can always find poisons and traps for other animals, unwanted animals. Have prepared on a roll of tape such messages as STOP THE KILLING AND PET YOUR CAT, and such, then sit on a sparkling new bicycle for sale, and read, “I am a passenger sitting in a suspicious / way w/ a yearn for the new to be older / Strangers become friends even if they are sometimes objects / The white star is on the blue field / There is a black eagle on a red sea / Crates have brought w/ them the dead people & the letters / sent from loved ones when the dead people were alive” Buy some bubble gum and ride the escalator up, up, up, and down, and back around, reading, “So it is decided that / men who pose for pictures w/ guns have terrible taste / in eyewear Some faces reflect the light of others Every lake / tastes different & even at the end the land / remains a place to fall in love”

kathryn l. pringle | Right New Biology | Factory School | 2009

Do this on a hot, humid day, like I did, it’s an especially sublime experience on such a day. Wrap your naked body in maps, atlas pages, or even imaginary maps you draw yourself. Scotch tape your suit of PLACES the lines as highways, lines as borders, takes us by car, plane, solely imagined. THEN put your OTHER clothes on over your DIRECTIONS TO SUIT THE WORLD. Remember to bring drinking water, because if you pass out you’ll miss the best parts of the poems. Don’t pass out. Where do you want to go out there with your fellow citizens? They’re not noticing the bulk under your normal human clothes, don’t worry about it. On your way to your public location to read, if you shoplift, or commit other crimes, and they strip search you: MAPS! Let them find their own way. If you arrive at the location THIS book senses location(s), note she wrote with her own body at the start, “This book could not have been written without the influence of many Presidents of the United States of America and Sigmund Freud.” Are you sweating into your maps? Isn’t it divine? Your sweat permeating mountain chains FEED the Mississippi FEED the sea! What is over your heart? Go to a public restroom to open your shirt if you don’t remember. Reading this poet, rub that artery of highways while reading to send along what you read, “a gift is the city and the setting of work / a gift of the foreherein Organism old also / these phantasms spin / around, they drive / absurd universes” Take the directions when they come INHALE she writes “INHALES / mind is two lines, or stands / a singing oracle / a swinging oracle, able sung” We’re the book, we are. It’s amazing.

Akilah Oliver | A Toast in the House of Friends | Coffee House | 2009

Maybe it was the trees on the cover, or the NEED for something MOVING around me, but I took this book out to the protected wildlife parks around Philadelphia and found a secluded stream, first for my feet, then…. Bring a battery-powered radio, turn it to a talk radio station, but put it far enough away from you that you can hear it, but can’t make out what it is they’re saying. Faint, keep it faint, go and adjust it if you can understand them, as we want the voices to be clearly voices, but the words unattainable with our senses. Get your feet in the moving water and start reading, “language is leaving me: ahhhhh—this victimization shit / is not stable and the victors: / when are we going to safari / we: [astounded exclamation] / nancy reagan out of my head” This is a book, and it feels like it is written right into your skin when you read it. I found an old scuba mask, and if you have one, please wear it and rest your head in the stream, submerging your ears at least for the reading of one poem, “well the point is, things were calm down / here for a while and the world was little. i want to be big like you. or i / want you not vast, not dead, not gone, but human small and here. i am / so selfish. that is what i really want. to see you again. to oil your scalp. to / hear you walk in the door, say ma i’m home. give me a chance to say / welcome home son. or when leaving, don’t forget your hat. what do you wear / out there?” That was the one I read underwater, under running water. This book needs time to be alone between poems. How is the water? How is today for you, reading Akilah’s poems? “i’d like all the stone butches to wave their hands in the air right now, wave em / like they just don’t care / (it seems to be unfortunate but true; corporate spell check does not recognize you / we are all too young to remember this”

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Make A LOT of ice cubes in your freezer the night before. Make an ice sling, it’s very easy: use 2 plastic bags from the grocery store, fill them with ice, put these in a towel, tie the towel around your neck, but make certain that the ice is near your face at all times. Naked is best, of course. So get naked. Put your feet in a bucket of hot water and crushed garlic (4 or 5 cloves). Be ready to add more hot water and ice as you read, “I like the letters of the alphabet that slide downhill / somehow we all expected to become exasperated little gods” WHOA, this book gets you gets you gets you! WHY THE ICE YOU ASK? Why ask?, it’s ice, it’s poetry, it’s all good, no one’s getting hurt, right? Can you TASTE the garlic through your bare feet? It’s nice, it’s like eating through your feet while reading, right? What weird and lovely creatures we are! Rest your chin on the ice, SMELL the ice, inhale the cool air. It’s summer while I’m doing this, now, and lovely, the poems make me happy, “if I’m going to have to bite heads off they / damn well better taste good / it occurs to me” I mean REALLY, can you TASTE IT, “the bad guys were there in their bad guy uniforms / our bus driver was wearing a fake bad guy uniform / so he could go inside to get us food and cigarettes / [commercial break] / back at the mansion water sprinklers / water the lawn in the pouring rain” From time to time it’s good to read, then close your eyes and take a DEEP BREATH of the ice, a big ice sniff. Touch your tongue to them, hold one in your bared teeth through the reading of one poem, then SPIT it back into your ice sling and read the poem aloud, have you ever felt such things while reading? It’s beautiful to feel.

Hoa Nguyen | Hecate Lochia | Hot Whiskey | 2009

There really are patches of grass in Philadelphia where the yuppie pure bred dogs have NOT made their pure bred toilets. That’s where I went for this book, that patch I know of, a DELICIOUS patch of dirt, weeds, bugs, pebbles and bits of glass and metal, plastic bag tumble weeds. Wherever you are, whatever climate, whatever the earth, be in it for this book. I buried my bare feet after digging a hole with a sharp stone. It’s good to have water out there. It is very hot and humid in Philadelphia in August, and I LOVE hot and humid weather, LOVE to FEEL the air, and pour the water into my face while reading. “And I do think it’s true that men stole / the magical instruments of women / & we were too busy / with ordinary life / to worry about this” If eating dirt is too much for you then smell it at least, SMELL the grass. The grass sweats chlorophyll, or I’m smelling myself in the grass, but it’s kind of nice. But I ate a little of the dirt with some water, AH, gritty and weird while reading, “I might literally shut down / like a bug little legs / curled in the air” Feel OK about stopping midway to dig around, digest the poems and dirt, dig around, digest, dig into the earth and make little dirt castles for whoever is small enough to move in. There were enough beer can tabs for me to make a little table with four chairs. Remember this book with the earth covering your feet, “The ‘perfect red king’ / is a man becoming a woman / and bleeding every month / ‘Fixed with a triple nail’ / This is hard work / becoming a woman” and you will believe everything in here with the best parts of you working for it.

Jenn McCreary | : AB OVO : | Dusie | 2009

Bring all of this: bread, nuts, seeds, honey, water with lemon and orange slices. Take a chair some place in your house or apartment where you NEVER sit, some place you would never even CONSIDER sitting. Like in a hallway, in a corner facing the corner, in the bathroom, or UP on a table, let’s do it! This enhancement, and this book, contain a variety of different pregnancies. So sit in a place you would NEVER sit, sit there with your plate of food, and water, make something new of the body you’ve known your home to be. Eat some of the food, drink some of the water, slowly, chew a long, long time. This is about being the poems of this book now, “…what the gardens can / do is import the world outside. when borders / are undefined, lines may be lost or may cease / to be. the ground beneath your feet becomes / or does not.” Let’s let it become beneath our feet. Where you are, put a plant there after you’re finished reading the book. A new plant, a small, young plant. Not a lot of light? A philodendron for low light then. “the walls of this room have become the world / all around.” This book, the plant, the reading, it’s all going to SHIFT you, unless you’re unmovable, but I bet you can be jarred as only good poems can jar. “It’s almost like the ocean. it’s nothing / like the ocean. in that space / where no one else / is. it’s such a long way / down. & strange. / my ears revolve for wolves. I find my footing / & walk across the air / to where you are.”

Joseph Massey | Areas of Fog | Shearsman | 2009

These poems for me came from lower chakras, they’re so marvelously spare they need our flanks to shake the storage of memory files loose. Take a string, not a sewing thread, something a little thicker and more durable, and something which is made of fiber, not plastic. Make certain the string is long enough to reach into your pants, around your crotch and ass, and out the back. You should have a good 12 inches of string hanging out the front of your pants, and the exact same amount hanging out the back of your pants. Make sure you lubricate the string that’s against your skin, and be generous in lubricating it, we don’t want to get rope burns from reading Joe’s book, we want it beautiful instead. NO ONE is going to notice the string, so don’t worry, and even if they do, they’re busy, and won’t let it stay in their minds for more than a minute. Go out into your town or city, or wherever you live where there are people. Test the string before leaving, pull it from the front, then pull it from the back. How is that? Is it nice? Of course it is, it’s perfect for poems! Find a place to lean and read, “There are seasons here / if you squint. And there’s / relief in the landscape’s / sloughed off cusps of color / fallen over the familiar / landmarks, the familiar / trash–things that last.” There’s something beautiful about being with these quiet poems jarring our insides, while in public. Now pull your string, then reach to the other side and pull your string again, and read, “dusk dims / between leaves / on the tree / whose name / I refuse to find.” I put the string RIGHT IN my ass crack, which made me totally aware of my surroundings, “Enough to make / the foliage / flinch, / wind slits. / Music sifts / out of a house.” Music not just coming out of things around us, but from these poems as well, “how the light / makes do. / A thrust of / things– / a world– / words– / crush / against / the margin of you.”

Erica Kaufman | Censory Impulse | Factory School | 2009

Go to the middle of an overpass and stare down at the traffic without blinking for as long as you can. As soon as you blink open the book. Let the traffic and road below frame the book as you read. Open yourself to FEELING urges to spout off words, lines, entire poems as loud as you want whenever you want. You’re reading poetry, you have the world’s permission to feel URGES and FEEL urges. Smells, sounds, even taste’s sensations come up with the cars. The filth of exhaust, do you get it? Stop from time to time, to close your eyes and hum a hummmmming all your own, lifting to high hummmm, low hummm, hummmmmm your hum. It’s getting into you out here, the poems, the pulsing travel of words and cars? “this is a vocabulary of possession / this is why i won’t meet you / in the road a curb under an insect / shaped fountain i bring / a trampoline to the park / offer up a bench / say my blood is somewhere / it’s not important / like distance the how long / of intimate the panic / that shuts any mind down / conquer the hill feel it / please use these anecdotes / as an introduction”

Rob Halpern | Disaster Suites | Palm | 2009

Does it storm where you live? If it doesn’t, try sitting in the shower under an umbrella with a VERY LOUD recording of a thunderstorm playing. In Philadelphia we have the real thing, and I checked the weather reports for the PERFECT SUMMER STORM. Ah, and did I find it! Suites they are, and reading them in the middle of a torrential downpour with frightening lightning and thunder made the music OMNIPRESENT like few experiences of reading have done for me. Sit in an outdoor shelter. I chose the steps of a pre-revolutionary war building near Benjamin Franklin’s house. Bring a recording of a thunderstorm. If you have an MP3 player, ONLY have it playing in one ear. If you have an old fashioned tape recorder like I used, place it so one ear will absorb the bulk of the crackling. At times, when reading, it was as if the storm was answering the recorded storm, “Everyone out there listening knows / My body feels so way off the ground / As all the big stores go reaching for me” And sit a cup JUST OUTSIDE your shelter, let the cup absorb the storm’s water. I brought a metal cup, and set it FAR away from me, hoping to catch more than water. But it only caught water, a delicious cup of storm water. Drink and read, “Of being being sucked absorbed into ever vaster / Networks where history’s still being taped and re / -ality tested oh y’re just suffering the old imperial / Nostalgia he said but the neo-con retards fucked- / Up my spin without me and I guess I don’t know / How to criticize democracy value or to just say no!” And place a slice of bread in the storm to absorb the nitrogen from the lightning, and of course the delicious water; eat, and let them become your body, “Now let’s recount ourselves in terms of crisis dynamics / Depict the ends of state where history and the seas / Choose me since I see you there my dreamy fuck.”

David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm | 2009

Take your laundry to the laundromat, even if you’re fortunate enough to have these machines at home. This is about reading poems while feeling machines in public. Set washer to the longest possible cycle. Sit on it, or have a chair beside it so you can lean into it, press into it. Stare at the book’s cover and stare at it even when you think you’re tired of staring at it, as it’s possible you’re trying to trick yourself into thinking you’re tired when you’re actually disturbed. Imagine those bloody arms and hands belong to someone you love more than anyone else in this world. What’s this person’s name? Say their name out loud while looking at the book cover. Be disturbed, you deserve it. We all deserve it. This is a cover to refer to while reading. PRESS a cheek into the washing machine, then pause while reading to open the lid, and place a hand inside the soapy water. Just keep it there for a few minutes while reading. Reading, your hand in filthy water trying to get clean. Midway through the book, pause to go outside and STRETCH your body, give a good stretch and yawn if you can yawn, this would be around page 54 with the stanzas, “We will be naming / the dead and injured / and reading anti-war / poetry. Email but put / “Anti-War Poetry / Book” in the subject / line to make sure / you’re not deleted.” The dryer, sit in front of it if it’s got a round glass window, sit as close as you can. While reading have the rolling heated clothes with the water sucking from their fibers be the image that frames the book. At some point OPEN THE DRYER and stick your head inside with your eyes closed and FEEL the intense heat and humidity, then close it and go back to reading. You would be surprised that no one really notices you, in case you worry about such things. Everyone’s busy, they don’t even care to know that you’re in the middle of experimenting with your reading. If you feel comfortable enough, invite someone in the laundromat to listen to you read from the book for them, “I think there / are theres here / in my devices / the rigorous buffoonery / the fleshy statistics / the secret minutes / the cathected works.”

Julian Brolaski | Buck in a Corridor | flynpyntar | 2009

Button mushrooms are what I bring to this. Any mushroom you want, but button mushrooms are the only mushrooms I enjoy raw. ENJOYMENT is essential! Please do not wash them, they absorb water. Brush them off with a clean, dry towel, that’s all. Go out into the fresh air and sun. Take these fungus which have grown in quiet darkness, bring them OUT into the lit world with you. Find a place to relax. Lie flat on your back, place a mushroom on crotch of your pants or dress or whatever. If you’re naked, GREAT, but be clean, as you have to eat these morsels. Spend a little time with your eyes closed, meditating on your genitals, on the mushroom on your genitals. Then move that mushroom up to your breast for the heart chakra point. Put a new one on your genitals. Rest and meditate again. Then move the first one to middle of your forehead, the second one to your heart, and yet a third one on your genitals again. Now start reading, but be aware that you are MOVING through the mushrooms a channel of energy UP from your genitals to your mind. Read, “to act in opposition to one’s genitals / turn your cock inside out and get a cunt like a prius / vs. take some cuntflesh and get a cock like the wright flyer I / @ kitty hawk / with adverse yaw / wingwarped / circumnavigated / how to fashion / a canard” After reading a little while, pause and take the mushroom off your forehead. Pull the stem off and eat it. Run your thumbs along the feathery gills on the underside of the cap. Press it inside out a bit. Cuntflesh into Cock, back again, back again, then EAT IT! It’s delicious, right? Move the mushrooms UP, from heart to forehead, etc., with a new one on genitals. Read, “going around adding –ess to nouns / “lion-ess” / “poet-ess” / that’s such a load / so that the daffydill yawns back / the one who taught me grk is dead / you want to put them in your lap” Pause and study the mushroom from your forehead, EAT IT, move them up, and keep reading until the delicious book is finished, the delicious mushrooms are finished, “we’ve all crossed thresholds we don’t brag about / iphigenia oxling / when arbolaf dies / one is hailed to arden / as one goes hitherto / asphyxiating along the gowanus / in spite of that rat light / in the gutted yardland / or where jackadaws coo / in concrete galoshes”

Anselm Berrigan | To Hell with Sleep | Letter Machine Editions | 2009

GET IN THE DARK. Bring a flashlight into a closet and take pillows and shirts and socks and panties and whatever the fuck you can find to CLOSE all the cracks of light from getting IN there. And put a fan in there, and bring water, and put the fan on low. THIS is now the atmosphere for THIS. It’s a good time to praise with utmost gratitude SIGHT! Is anyone going to be looking for you? Make sure you plan on telling everyone you’re going out, to a movie, somewhere, BUT to really have THIS as THIS atmosphere, having it as all your own, don’t tell anyone where you are. It’s none of their business how you absorb poems. These line breaks are more like line cuts, cutting across the page, a good thing the flashlight can trace. Do you have binoculars, do you? I tried this and it was marvelous: so put the book on the other side of the closet, which I did by suspending it with clothes hangers. Then flash the light on the book while reading the page through the binoculars, it’s great. It’s kind of hard actually, which is great. Every once in awhile SHUT OFF the light and sit there in the pool of pitch black quiet. Then SUDDENLY flick the flashlight back on and read quickly for a little while to make the reading in your head THE SOUND that comes, the light, the reading. “I’m glad for waste, its / ascension, its emotional arc / into the prose of governance. / Dumb hostilities issue forth / from all the movements of yester- / morrow; am I liberal when it / comes to prostitution? No.” How is this for you, you know you like dark poetry reading, “At the used frame shop / the cruel chase a world. Dan / Marino from Nutrisystem / tells good carbs from bad.”

Eric Baus | Tuned Droves | Octopus | 2009

Be fully dressed for this one. Fill a tub with a nice hot bath, bubbles TOO, and a good amount of it. Climb in, shoes and all, shirt, pants, even a coat if you want. It’s nice to FEEL the warm water soak into the fabric, and fill the shoes, soak into the socks, then, then it hits the skin, ah, time for poetry. Make yourself pee before doing this by the way or your bladder will pressure you out of the tub, unless of course you just want to pee yourself in the tub, it’s your choice, don’t let me interfere. This book is perfect for a submerged body, but don’t get suds on it, or water, and don’t doze off and drown, I’m sure Eric Baus would feel terrible, and I would have to console him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault you’re so stupid to fall asleep with such a book in hand. In fact you deserve to drown if you fall asleep while reading it. But you’re not stupid, you’re OK, you’re fine, but midway through reading the book STAND UP SUDDENLY, maybe just before “THE CONTINUOUS CORNER” section. Enjoy the water falling out of your clothes, drip drip, it’s dripping off of you, you have a body made MOSTLY OF water, but when it’s outside you it drips off, unless of course you peed yourself in the tub, then it’s dripping out of you. Enjoying this marvelous book? “When the work was finished, there were no chapters. / The name of the child was It Is Not Here. / It is unlikely this is precise. / To reproduce his mother’s voice, hydrogen was added to the body. / For all this activity, the sound was flat.”

More CA Conrad here.

Attention Span 2009 – Stan Apps

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Harold Abramowitz | Dear Dearly Departed | Palm Press | 2008

A book about the difficulty and sadness of speaking to someone who is no longer present. Somewhere between an elegy and a guide to epistolary conventions, it contains every emotion that could possibly go in a letter:  “And that was looking around. It was a very serious business and tomorrow was another day, but not a day of torment. Not a day of torment.”

Steve Aylett | Lint | Thunder’s Mouth Press | 2005

An absurdist biography of a fictional science-fiction writer (based loosely on Philip Dick). This book is very funny and written in a complexly mannered and overloaded prose that resembles poetry:  “His very awareness of words’ limitations made him run around like some nutter with a blowpipe, creating a career described variously as a triumph, a benchmark for defeat, a systemized kitsch torus, hell on a stick, a ferocious bluff, the revenge of the Alexandrian library, a strange honking sound, not too shabby, glyph contraband, nutty slack, exhausting, a catalog of fevers, and ‘gear.’”

Micah Ballard | Parish Krewes | Bootstrap Press | 2009

Lyric poems about the beauty of those who are dead. A displaced erotic energy takes the shape of mysterious ritual:  “the theme of death is our thiefhood.”

David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm Press | 2009

Ten years of poems charting the ups and downs of our collective crisis mentality. A poetry of puns and outrage, prying at the scab of our public discourse:  “thus – this – these – / Stanzas in Medication // (spits) // whose side / effects are you / — on?”

Lawrence Giffin | Get the Fuck Back into that Burning Plane | Ugly Duckling Press  | 2009

A prison-house of linguistic complexity. Giffin studies how consumerist discourse encloses and subordinates other discursive modes:  “your comprehensiveness is undercut / by the purchasing power of others.”

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

The story of an unfinished book, carefully chronicling the book’s drafts and why it was repeatedly dropped and abandoned. Ultimately, the book-about-the-book takes the place of the book per se. A wonderful articulation of the rhythms of a writer’s life and the sensation of nursing along an inchoate book:  “it was devastating. . . to have written a book and to have lost it and to be holding it there all at once.”

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood Editions | 2009

This poetry has the political intensity and representational clarity of mid-career Auden. Moxley uses allegorical tableau to frame her progressive critique of liberal political orthodoxy. I admire her embrace of direct statement:  “I remember feeling / a hollow failure at the particularity / of these pleasures.”  Or “The / private-sector mercenaries / ride roughshod over espousers / of eroded nobility as well as the / merely weak.”

Julien Poirier | Back On Rooster | Gneiss Press | 2007

A chapbook length poem, published in an edition of 52. A study of mental process, the inexorable bob-and-weave of consciousness carrying on:  “it’s an accident / when it / happens I like it / it changes me / I appear”

Michael Nicoloff and Alli Warren | Bruised Dick | no press | no date (probably 2007)

A polymorphously perverse collaborative collection. I think it’s sold out but hopefully will be re-released someday with the same silly picture of the two author’s faces blended on the cover. This is probably the most fun book on my list—I read it probably 20 times:  “stake a claim in there / where the damp and emotional / rust builds up all disco / on your balls and ass”

Erika Staiti | Verse/Switch & Stop-Motion | no press | 2008

Just a Xeroxed booklet of very good poems. I expect these will be published in a less ephemeral form eventually. A loving study of aggression as a social dynamic. “when you’ve got nothing to give, you give someone a shiner // dot blogspot dot com”

Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

A fascinating dislocation of the biographical impulse. Work that charts subjectivity’s accumulation and erosion:  “Many things must be made new for a tonal shift to stick.”

More Stan Apps here.

Attention Span – Jennifer Scappettone

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Once again I am away from my shelves, so render these but demi-impressionistically:

David Buuck | constraint-based board-bearing made-to-order essays | various performances | 2008

Cringing through this with his Catholic aunts enriched the context.

Taylor Brady & Rob Halpern | Snow Sensitive Skin | Atticus/Finch | 2007

Command mouths.

Dolores Dorantes, trans. Jen Hofer | sexoPUROsexoVELOZ | Counterpath and Kenning Editions | 2008

Difficult to choose between this and lip wolf, Hofer’s translation of Laura Solòrzano’s lobo de labio put out by Action Books in 2007. Read the notes as you read the lyrics.

Carla Harryman | direction for Kathy Acker’s Requiem | work toward performance as part of Poet’s Theater Showcase at Links Hall, Chicago | 2008

Rendered “reading” a spatialized & corporeal experience, formosa.

F.T. Marinetti | Venezianella e studentaccio | typescript | 1944

Gothic Baroque Rococo Impressionist Secessionist Futurist Refusturism.

Luigi Nono | Intolleranza 1968 | Sofferte onde serene | Prometeo:  Tragedia dell’ascolto | various years, performances, publications

“To listen to the dark, to listen to how the lights move, how the water emanates light. To listen to the way the sky is a creature of the stones, of the tiles, of the water. To know how to see and hear the invisible and inaudible. To arrive at the lowest grade of audibility, visibility.”

Roberto Rossellini | Paisà | OFI | 1946

Makes “site-specificity” seem trifling. Needs to be issued anew.

Aldo Rossi | A Scientific Autobiography | MIT | 1981

How have I never had this recommended to me? Oh, right. Ditto.

Leslie Scalapino | It’s go in horizontal:  Selected Poems, 1974-2006 | Wesleyan UP | 2008

Anti-citational oppositional time, “entirely from the inside out.”  A clamorous ethics not just a phenomenology: a tall order for poetry, finally gathered here.

Hannah Weiner’s Open House | Ed. Patrick Durgin | Kenning Editions | 2006

Long-awaited.

Haskell Wexler | Medium Cool | H&J | 1969

Time precisely to watch it again.

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More Jennifer Scappettone here.