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Attention Span 2011 | Jed Rasula

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Donna Stonecipher | The Cosmopolitan | Coffee House | 2008

Prose poems composed in Cornell-box-like “inlays,” nudging minutiae of found materials into an arresting cosmology, like peering into a Jess collage made strictly of words. One paragraph can resemble a building permit, while the next dips a thermometer into your hippocampus. It starts eerie and ends that way, having scooped its exponential insinuations over, under, and around you until you’re a bonfafide citizen of Stonecipher’s cosmopolis.

Julie Carr | 100 Notes on Violence | Ahsahta | 2010

No single book of poetry absorbed me as much last year as Carr’s, its impact reducing me to that owl gaze of a word, “Wow.” It felt like witnessing Poetry emerging from the primal cauldron, every line a masterstroke from the original smithy. Harrowing, heartening, threatening, fortifying and unnerving all at once. It will take years to absorb.

David Meltzer | Beat Thing | La Alameda | 2004 

The “beat thing” has been done to a crisp, done in, done to death, yet somehow Meltzer does it again with deep dish dazzle, heartfelt allover glow and wry surmise, recounting “all those guys / all those disguises.” A bop prosodic sprawling riff sails along unchecked for 150 pages, graced with a handful of delectable photos, putting hipster “moves & mudras” in a context where Hitler, Joe McCarthy and Bird rub haunches in what’s inexorably public yet somehow privately recalled: “how impulsively memory organizes into a choir,” the poet reflects at the end.

Joanne Kyger | About Now: Collected Poems | National Poetry Foundation | 2007

In the domain of titles, Kyger nails it time and again. Going On, Just Space, Again and As Ever are her four ‘selected’ books preceding this collection, its 769 pages unfurling the poems in six chronological sections. Wonder after wonder, though I can’t help but wonder about the missing structures. Consecutive arrangement obliterates the fetching portfolios of All This Every Day and The Wonderful Focus of You, books Harvey Brown introduced me to thirty years ago with his characteristic right on reverence. Still, why harp about such a lodestone, humming with sapience, sentience, exigence, and devotion.

Kenneth Irby | The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962-2006 | North Atlantic | 2009

Another New World wonder, documenting Irby’s consistency from the get go. His gnarly syntax and unique polymathic sensibility radiate throughout a body of work as essential and unrepeatable as that of Thelonious Monk. It’s a relief to find the arrangements of the (very scarce) original books are preserved here, augmented with nearly 100 pages of unpublished poems.

Jonathan Williams | Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems | Copper Canyon | 2005

Now that he’s gone, it’s chastening to realize how much he took with him, not least his wizened curiosity for hijinx and mayhem scraped off every gurgle of the American vernacular, transcribed resourcefully in eagle eye poems that read like reports from an unfunded intergalactic voyage. “Start as near the end of a poem as you can” is an adage he quotes: an unfailing guide to his invariable skill at hitting every bullseye in sight.

Andrew Schelling | From the Arapaho Songbook | La Alameda | 2011

Between the tale of a broken foot and prolonged close encounter with the Arapaho language, Schelling has managed to get useful kinks working inside these serpentine poems. The book, his best, feels open ended yet also compacted. Numinous ruffles abound, and the fur on the back of the neck bristles.

H.D. | Tribute to Freud | Godine | 1974

Reread after thirty years, then reread again the same week—it was that gripping. Struck this time by the bifocal power of this edition, which includes “Writing on the Wall” (the original book published in 1956) and “Advent,” the earlier notes written while H.D. was seeing Freud. A nimbus of creative love suffuses the whole, revealing a very different Freud than the stern Viennese magus of . This magus—with H.D. as privileged initiate—was host of a study was filled with heraldic figurines from antiquity: “a museum, a temple,” she calls it, venturing into a unique pas de deux.

Juan Bonilla, ed. | Aviones Plateados: 15 Poetas Futuristas Latinoamericanos, 2nd ed. | Puerta del Mar | 2009

A revelation, leading me to some mesmerizing (if very period-dated) works in which modernolatria wears its enthusiasm on its sleeve, its forelocks, and everywhere else it can pin a decal celebrating speed, airborne loop-the-loops, and the futurist program transposed along the spine of the Andes. Juan Marín, Marcos Fingerit, Luis Vidales, Luis Aranha, and Luis Cardoza y Aragón are now fixtures in my constellation of modernist poetry, plunging me into feverish bouts of translation over consecutive summers (some of which will soon appear in my anthology Burning City, in press with Action Books, co-edited with Tim Conley, whose new book, Nothing Could Be Further [Emmerson Street Press] is a wealth of minute fictions inscribed with the care of a tattoo artist working on an eyelid; think, Lydia Davis on helium.)

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More Jed Rasula here.

Rasula’s Attention Span for 20082006. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span – Tim Conley

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Gunnar Olsson | Abysmal: A Critique of Cartographic Reason | Chicago | 2007

The map is a territory, just not the territory in question.

Mark Scroggins | The Poem of A Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky | Shoemaker & Hoard | 2007

Illuminating and exemplary. To those writers I know who cannot even imagine why one would read a “literary” biography, I say: read this and see.

Daniel Heller-Roazen | The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation | Zone | 2007

This book isn’t just about that itch you’ve always had but could never quite scratch; it is that itch.

Javier Marías | Your Face Tomorrow, Volume One: Fever and Spear | New Directions | 2005

Robert Kelly | Red Actions: Selected Poems 1960-1993 | Black Sparrow | 1995

Kelly’s work has been a recent, embarrassingly late, and joyous discovery for me. “Can you forgive us all? We / who were your alphabets.”

Rebecca Solnit | Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics | California | 2007

Clearing the air. A mind to walk with.

Jean-Michel Rabaté | 1913: The Cradle of Modernism | Blackwell | 2007

Let there be more such histories, a discreet span studied from every angle, profound and multifaceted contemplations of a month in Spain, a single day in an African village, a late afternoon shared by the world.

Jonathan Williams | Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems | Copper Canyon | 2005

John Peel and Sheila Ravenscroft | John Peel: Margrave of the Marshes | Chicago Review | 2007

When radio was something you did, an activity for both listener and programmer. Unexpectedly poignant is how Ravenscroft takes over the narrative when her husband dies: this is a memoir in stereo.

David Graeber | Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology | Prickly Paradigm | 2004

Jay Millar | Mycological Studies | Coach House | 2002

One of my students asked me whether this book was “for real.”

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More Tim Conley here.