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Posts Tagged ‘Dawn Michelle Baude

Attention Span 2011 | Dawn-Michelle Baude

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Jack Kerouac, ed. Ann Charters | Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956 | Penguin | 1996

Cough. Sputter. Gulp. It’s hard to come up for air when you swim in the depths—the currents take you and you’re off in a verbal flow like no other. Kerouac’s “sincerity” disarms. I lost both clothes and compass. The emotional tone—seductive, naive, manic, officious, idealistic, angry, intimate and joyous by turns—is grounded by a steady, perhaps uncanny, writing wisdom and a ready hug. Passion throbs in this prose. He loved so many people. The plans for starting a kind of trailer park with the Cassady family broke my heart. So many plans, plans after plans, for jobs, for books, for lovers, money, drugs. The monastery in Soissy-sur-Seine (Kerouac as Monk), the ranch out West (Kerouac as Cowboy), the apartment in Italy (Kerouac as Shelley), in Mexico (Kerouac as Addict), in Paris (Kerouac as Polygamist)…. Disappointment, thy name is legion! How many different blue-collar jobs did he have? And why was he such a bad test-taker? The US Air Force wouldn’t let him get near a cockpit, the Navy hospitalized him and discharged him, nobody allowed him to legally get behind the wheel of anything—train, truck, car. And yet, he still got around, a lot, on the sheer fuel, I suppose, of determination. “If there is one thing I feel sure of it is this, that Human life has direction” (p. 439). The writing is all process, finding its way as it goes, from the predictable banalities of daily existence to the teleology of the cosmos. Given the constant drive for literary achievement, Kerouac’s penchant for nomadism and desire for artistic expression can’t be separated, although the royalties he planned on never materialized and the criticism was dismissive and cruel. Allen Ginsberg, among others, did what he could to hawk the manuscripts, but it wasn’t easy (“Your giggles don’t fool me, I see the snarl under it, “ p. 379); in fact, from the evidence in the letters, Ginsberg (like everybody else) didn’t “get” Kerouac’s writing for many years. Even Neil Cassady—the muse of many—abandoned him. Was it the disagreement over the marijuana? Or the ménage-à-trois? It’s hard to say. Kerouac’s life was often messy. The best way to read these letters may be with the biography side-by-side, since the chronology is so hard to keep track of, Anne Charters’ helpful editorial commentary notwithstanding. For readers with any lingering doubt, it’s clear that On The Road was revised many, many times—no one who takes this ride could argue otherwise. The only thing truly “spontaneous” in Kerouac’s oeuvre may be this spewing testimony to a life deeply lived at levels most of us only glimpse from afar.


Dawn-Michelle Baude is an international author, educator and Senior Fulbright Scholar with seven volumes of poetry, three communications books, two art catalogues, two books of translations, and numerous publication credits in the press, including Vogue, Newsweek International and View. She has taught writing at top universities on four continents.

Baude’s Attention Span for 2008. Back to 2011 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Featured Title – Broken World by Joseph Lease

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Joseph Lease | Broken World | Coffee House | 2007 | Goodreads | LibraryThing | 3 mentions in Attention Span 2008


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

This is the first Joseph Lease book I’ve read. He’s got a funny way with desperation and anger that I appreciate. (Rae Armantrout)

Also mentioned by G.C. Waldrep.

Written by Steve Evans

June 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Featured Title – Golden Age of Paraphernalia by Kevin Davies

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Kevin Davies | The Golden Age of Paraphernalia | Edge | 2008 | Goodreads | LibraryThing | 7 mentions in Attention Span 2008

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

Lovers of late JA meanderings through pre-code detritus who look to counter other lovers’ complaints about cut & pasteability will find, here, that reading each section ‘in order’, or continuously across the breaks and gaps, makes the book lose part of its meaning. The obsessive superfineries of the arrangement, shorn against undoing, and the intricate intactness of “Lateral Argument” underscore the point perfectly: within a supersaturate, none of the pieces fit. The author also wishes to inform you that Stephane was wrong about the book/bombe; the blank page 68 is a comment on the French. (Michael Scharf)

O’Hara said that Whitman , Crane and Williams were the only American poets who were better than the movies, but today, in a world with Apocalypto and 3-D Imax Beowulf, only Kevin Davies is better than the movies. Maybe you’re in it for the giddy surprise of a turned phrase. Maybe you’re in it for the zonked formal apparatus (“floaters”?). Maybe you just want to drink a Corona and take pot shots at the government. Anyway you want it, that’s the way I need it. More than one Davies book a decade? Yes, please. (Stephen Zultanski)

The benefit of Edge being a little shambling in their publication schedule is that I have gotten to put some version of this book on the Attention Span list for eleven consecutive years. For all the magnificent of the parts (with Lateral Argument still magnificentest), the book is the thing: an overlapping structure which asks you ceaselessly to reevaluate the scale of parts and wholes, to read every passage as an ambiguous instance shifting within a structure within a circuit. In this sense it’s a triumph of thinking globalization/late capitalism/the lives within it, comparable only to the markedly different Kala, M.I.A.’s album which nonetheless takes up very much the same problem, about the representability of part and whole in the world-system. Or: it’s basically the soundtrack for Mike Davis’s World of Slums. In making a mystified situation experienceable —in this case the circuits of economy, terror, epidemic, and culture that form what we call globalization—it stands with any work of art this millennium. (Joshua Clover)

Also mentioned by Rod Smith, Dana Ward, and David Dowker.

Written by Steve Evans

May 27, 2009 at 4:34 pm