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Posts Tagged ‘Keston Sutherland

Attention Span 2011 | Robert Stanton

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Rae Armantrout | Money Shot | Wesleyan | 2011

“Just” another incredible book from Armantrout, maybe even her greatest to date. Her best poems—personal favourites here include “Across,” “Fuel” “Soft Money,” “Exact” & “This Is”—are the best poems being written in America (& in American) right now.

Larry Eigner, ed. Curtis Faville & Robert Grenier | The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner | Stanford | 2010

A whole new way of seeing—& of thinking/feeling/recording what is seen. What more can one ask of a poet? I’m still ploughing through the four volume set, but this already feels like a major event in my reading life. . . .

Graham Foust | To Anacreon in Heaven | Minus A | 2010

Just when Foust’s more usual gallows-humour-driven expressionistic-minimalist style was in danger of edging into shtick, he diversifies—in this & in To Graham Foust on the Morning of His Fortieth Birthday (The Song Cave, 2010)—into sentence-by-sentence prose meditation, retaining his virtues in concision & upset but presenting them on a much bigger canvas. Like a colder Spicer, a more fucked-up Stevens, he rejuvenates the serial-poem-about-poetry-that’s-really-about-life for a more cynical age. Where will he go next?

Mark Ford | Six Children | Faber | 2011

What a strange, troubling & strangely moving volume this is. Ford’s poetry has been described as a cross between Ashbery’s & Larkin’s—fairly accurately, it must be said, although in itself this doesn’t prepare for the absolute oddness of such an amalgam. A deep student of the New York School, & of Ashbery in particular, Ford can’t summon the playfulness, optimism or confidence of his American forebears, replacing them with chilly despair, repressed anxiety & mortal dread. Death pervades—elegies to the poet’s father, a memorial to a friend & fellow poet—along with a new, for Ford, post-colonial nostalgia-slash-guilt. Like the title poem, which thrillingly instills an ambivalent Whitman with appropriate Miltonic splendor, this book works, & is curiously uplifting in its dejection. Also recommended, on a similarly morbid note: Paul Muldoon’s new volume, Maggot (Faber, 2011).

Barbara Guest | Forces of Imagination | Kelsey St. | 2003

Alongside Eigner & Zanzotto (see below), my third big, belated discovery of the year was, courtesy of John Wilkinson’s critical advocacy, Barbara Guest. I’m still working (wandering) through her Collected Poems, but this collection of “essays” and assorted reflections really caught my attention: a more convincing, fluid meeting of “theory” & “poetry” than any “Language” text I’ve ever encountered. True & precious abstraction. . . .

Geoffrey Hill | Clavics | Enitharmon | 2011

Fun to see—in this & in Oraclau | Oracles (Clutag, 2010)—Hill try to shoehorn his late-won, new-found wilder style back into strict forms (and formalists don’t come much stricter than George Herbert, the obvious model here). Clunky in places, outright bad in others, full of infelicities the younger Hill would never have countenanced, this volume is nevertheless full of a poetic liveliness a 79-year old High Anglican Oxford Professor of Poetry has no earthly right to access. Hills’ Oxford lectures have been enjoyable so far too, especially when he called for a crazier “Mad Meg” spirit he felt was lacking from contemporary British poetry. Maybe he should read more Keston Sutherland (see below).

Joseph Massey | At the Point | Shearsman | 2011

Massey’s sophomore effort proves more of less can sometimes be more. In this case, a more structured, leaner, meaner & altogether poised survey of the same Californian territory already addressed in his impressive debut, Areas of Fog. The obvious byproduct & overflow of a long-sustained & concentrated observation, this new book nevertheless seems to be forever gesturing off at something larger, something just out of view. . . .

Jennifer Moxley | Coastal | The Song Cave | 2011

This should be insufferable: a “9/11” poem long on art & artistic survival techniques, short on political comment & commentary. Moxley, however, pulls it off (again). By tackling self-absorption head on, she somehow embodies, ennobles & transcends it all at once, producing a poem both diagnostic & exemplary in the process, something her less explicitly but more intrinsically narcissistic peers would struggle with. (Between this, the Foust text mentioned above & Peter Gizzi’s wonderfully titled Pinocchio’s Gnosis, The Song Cave gets my vote as press-of-the-year.)

J. H. Prynne | Sub Songs | Barque | 2010

After the bleak To Pollen and the (pleasingly) rebarbative Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage ARTESIAN, these nine lyrics seem, presented in an elegant and generous outsize folio as they are, positively relaxed by recent Prynne standards. It’s all relative, of course:

……………………………………………….The place-work of
willed repeats gains a familiar tremor in jointure, we say
sustainable our mouth assents slave dental unbroken torrid reason
will commute previous and lie down. None more credible, mirror
make up flat sat batch pinup gruesome genome. Now get out.

Keston Sutherland | Stress Position | Barque | 2009

Slow on the uptake here, probably because Sutherland’s previous volume, 2007’s Hot White Andy, scared the hell out of me (blazing as it was). Stress Position is intense too, but in a more diffused manner, making room for a cast of thousands (Ali whoever, Black Beauty, Dot, etc.), a bouncy elastic form (seven line stanzas, roughly seven beat lines, the odd extended prose footnote) & numerous scenic shifts (public toilet-set sexual assault, yacht-based cooking contest, etc.). Like David Cronenberg rewriting The Rape of the Lock, Stress Position evades any pat analogy you can throw at it. My vote for it as poem of the year (2009) elects it king of something or other. The same terrain is roundly abused again in The Stats on Infinity (Crater, 2010) & his prose study Stupefaction (Seagull, forthcoming 2011) looks promising too. Best English-language poet of his generation? Quite possibly.

Christian Wiman | Every Riven Thing | Farrar | 2010

This year’s mainstream-book-I-liked-much-more-than-I-expected-to. A new formalist previously overly interested in narrative (with very mixed results: see the sequence “Being Serious” for serious overwrought bathetic wallowing of the first water), Wiman is here thrown back onto his own story by a cancer diagnosis & its subsequent aftermath, becoming an intense, driven, forceful & skilful religious poet as a result. Everyday epiphanies meet convincingly apocalyptic tinges in a volume that, thankfully, rises above the merely confessional.

“Bubbling Under” (couldn’t resist a second eleven): works by Stephen Collis; Emily Critchley; Roy Fisher; Susan Howe; Paul Muldoon; Wendy Mulford (the Howe & Mulford texts here—That This & The Land Between—are properly, powerfully “adult” responses to grief and morality: an interesting contrast to the sometimes gleeful outlook of Ford & Muldoon); Ezra Pound (ed. Richard Sieburth); Tom Raworth; Rimbaud (trans. John Ashbery); David Foster Wallace (a pure joy—too funny to be the work of a suicide, surely?); Andrea Zanzotto (& Antonio Porta & Franco Buffoni & Milo de Angelis & Valerio Magrelli & Mario Luzi & Patrizia Cavalli—it’s been a very Italian year for me, all-told, reading-wise).

§

Rob Stanton was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, UK in 1977, raised outside Birmingham, educated in Cardiff and Leeds and currently lives in Savannah, Georgia, USA with wife, daughter and cats. His first book of poetry, The Method, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2011.

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

Attention Span – Dawn Michelle Baude

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Keston Sutherland | Neutrality | Barque | 2004

Upon returning from 18 years abroad, I asked two poets tens years my junior what book I should buy. They put Neutrality into my grasping hand. Hence I encountered Sutherland’s work for the first time and fell in love, literally, with the whoosh-plop-boom of that verbal cascade. It surges from its source with a delightful rhythm, to the point that  I suspect the layout on the page provides the syllogistic pretext for the argument of the poem without exerting a durable impact on prosody (this bears further consideration). I like the fact that this work doesn’t take itself too seriously, an important consideration when a lot of what’s available to read in the US seems to move from a homogenous, self-congratulatory careerism.

Mel Nichols | The Beginning of Beauty | Edge  | 2007

Nichols is one of my favorite poets and this book is full of what she does best: the insightful quotidian of being human, combined with a wacky, prickly sense of humor and inflected with a staunch political acumen—Kyger and Notley reverberate here, with a little of Hejinian and Darragh in the mix. Nichols is capable of range—The Beginning of Beauty has an acerbic wit that takes a back seat in her “Day Poem” series, where the mood is quieter and engages a flexible, compelling query into the new humanism—I’m a devoted fan of the Day Poems. Beauty is, of course, beautiful—a joy to hold, with its intimate, polysemous blue secret. That tip-in is so erotic.

Robert Creeley | The Niagara Magazine: Robert Creeley—A Dialogue | 1978

Oh Lord—what a gem—everything so deeply, irrevocably Creeley, in conversation with Kevin Power in Buffalo in 1976. If a book had arms, I’d want to crawl into them here. I found this issue which managed, somehow, to survive the pulverizing fists of time at a very cool second-hand bookshop specialized in impossibly hard-to-find poetry publications—Hermitage—in Beacon, Lower Hudson Valley.

Joseph Lease | Broken World | Coffee House | 2007

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.

VA | The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography | Mode A | 2006-

Basically anywhere that Barrett Watten’s brain has been I want to check out. It’s like going in for an oil change—are we thinking? Really thinking? As someone who’s had a voyeur’s view of the Language Poets from the get-go, I like to keep an eye on them, all of them. And the Grand Piano series is not a disappointment. If I can recuperate the word “panoptic” to employ in a pre-Foucaultian/Bentham sense, I would. But the quantum viewpoint might be better to describe this document in collective autobiography. At any rate, for a movement that has consistently faced accusations of mannerism (and a lot worse), the embodied narratives of Grand Piano provide the waves that those hard-copy particles need. Give a Language Poet a hug.

Buck Downs | Let It Rip | Washington, DC | 2007

I came across these poems this summer and I had to re-read. Downs’ line is so tight, the torque between words so high, the potential energy would seem a bit dangerous, were it not for lyric commitments. Tenderness, especially. The focus on juxtaposition of grammatical units functions differently from the trajectories we’re accustomed to follow, given the predictable paratactic idioms of our age. You have to read these poems slowly, word by word, as if the conditions of their making required more than a casual performative reconstruction. There’s wit here, in abundance, and keen social commentary, and a kind of revelatory intimacy, too.

Andrew Schelling | Wild Form & Savage Grammar | La Alameda | 2003

I didn’t know the US had any kind o f Ecological movement in poetry until I recently came across this book. The question that Schelling poses—how can we have a writing that also commits to the compelling issues of Ecology—is certainly worth considering, even (or especially) at this belated standpoint. Since Ecology is not, as far as I can ascertain, anywhere near the heart of contemporary poetics, Schelling turns often to Asia for ideas that were waylaid in history, a tendency that endears me to this book since many US poets have truncated their connection to the past as a source of meaningful information and finally end-up looking awfully provincial. Schelling is a good, clear essayist, so he took me places I hadn’t been before.

Kevin Davies | The Golden Age of Paraphernalia | Edge | 2008

Sharp, 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.

*

More Dawn Michelle Baude here.

Attention Span – Keith Tuma

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Trevor Joyce | What’s in Store | The Gig and New Writers’ Press | 2007

If verse is a turning, the short poems here have some of the tightest corners on the road.  New poems as if carved in stone; old folksongs from Ireland, Hungary and all over the map made new; birdsong collaged. A big book of lyric poetry plus: “not all / plants / are alike // some are / astringent / some are / salty // some sour / some sweet // some men / are short / -lived / some long // some ugly / others fortunate // weak strong / stupid clever / poor rich // was it / brevity / you wanted?”

Linh Dinh | Jam Alerts | Chax | 2007

Imagine Catullus in a tiki bar having a drink with an unemployed rodeo clown, contemplating the end of empire.  Or don’t: “Bombs / scared them away? Hell no, / We ate them all.”

Marjorie Welish | Isle of the Signatories | Coffee | 2008

Modernism as bricks in a wall you think you can tag: “WITH INDETERMINANCY WE SHALL BURY YOU.” Blue and white: are they true?

Keston Sutherland | Hot White Andy | Barque | 2007

No fire extinguisher left, they’ll be sorting stage directions for this at mid-century, looking for the way out: “He always does this. You get used to it. It is / what brains means.”

Norma Cole | Do the Monkey | Zasterle | 2006

Thinner than Spinoza in Her Youth and every bit as smart.  Here and there more flip, e.g. a waka is a 31 syllable poem: “My dog Stoutie is a stout little pal, kind of sugary, damp little nose, especially when he wants to go for a waka.” Check out “Heavy Lifting,” “The Olympics Is All in Your Mind,” and the rest: a “full sea / outside the self.”

Tyrone Williams | On Spec | Omnidawn | 2008

Cornucopia of hybrid texts. Jimmy Webb and Jacques Derrida tango on one page: “Pop ain’t s’posed to drawl and corn in the bright can’s just plain wrong.” “Derrida clarifies and develops this difference between the Platonic and Christian concepts of the soul in Chapter Three.”

Catherine Wagner | everyone in the room is a representative of the world at large | Bonfire | 2007

As if Plath read Wittgenstein aloud in the town square: “God knows the question arises from its own background / like a bas-relief, so that if one located it / one could chisel the whole thing off the wall and throw it away.”

Tom Raworth | Let Baby Fall | Critical Documents | 2008

When hungry, eat fast: “what are the chances? / what do they want with the bowl?”

Devin Johnston | Sources | Turtle Point | 2008

Not least for translations of Sappho and Propertius, and for more poise and balance than I’ve seen since Thom Gunn left these peeling shores: “Wake and sleep / sleep and wake.”

Rod Smith | Deed | Iowa | 2007

Something about the house is probably a metaphor, Mr. Jones: “Then the house / is popping.”

Frances Kruk | A Discourse on Vegetation & Motion | Critical Documents | 2008

There are other books, there are larger books, maybe you do and maybe you don’t need them: “today the Penalty is Self.”

Attention Span – John Wilkinson

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Keston Sutherland | Hot White Andy | Barque | 2007

The most astonishing poetic performance in English of the century so far. My review uh effusion is on Jacket so I’ll leave it at that.

Rob Halpern | Rumored Place | Krupskaya | 2004

So everyone knew about this but me, and I can’t wait for new work by Halpern. A densely-implicated (in all the history of that word) poetic work, while passionately driven. That’s its affinity with Keston’s.

Barbara Guest | The Blue Stairs | Corinth | 1968

How dumb! Only in typing this have I realised that The Red Gaze is a little joke on The Blue Stairs. Anyhow, Guest has been my obsession through the year, and I am sitting in England hoping the Collected Poems will reach me soon. This choice is a bit arbitrary, but I found a signed copy for almost nothing.

Jennifer Moxley | The Middle Room | Subpress | 2007

The acme of chick-lit.

D.S. Marriott | Hoodoo Voodoo | Shearsman | 2008

Morally, philosophically and politically complex meditations on black history and culture in clear language and regular syntax (the complex language is reserved for Marriott’s critical writing, see Haunted Life, Rutgers 2007). Untouched by any present fashion; fearless integrity.

Robert Kaufman | Various essays | NA | NA

Writing about Barbara Guest, I discovered Kaufman’s ‘A Future for Modernism’ published in American Poetry Review in 2000. After acres of dreariness, here was reading worth reading. I’ve been collecting Kaufman since.

Edward Gibbon, ed. David P. Womersley | The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire | Penguin | 1995

An unabridged copy was on the shelves of the Chicago apartment we sublet a couple of years ago. I started at the beginning. Then I asked for the unabridged Womersley edition for a birthday present, seeing the hardback set at a go-for-it-or-regret-it-forever price. Should keep me going for a decade and generate mordant comparisons with another empire’s decline and fall.

Cy Twombly | Various works | Tate Modern

The most bothersomely enigmatic of twentieth-century artists. Back I go, time and again, scratching my head. If I scratch it enough, my scalp too will streak and splodge.

Lorraine Ellison | Soul Sister: The Warner Brother Recordings | Rhino Handmade | 2006

At last the problem of vinyl and deck on one continent and CD collection on another is solved (yes, I ripped my Ellison albums onto iPod, but she needs a vaulted ceiling, not earbuds).

M.I.A. | Kala | Interscope | 2007

I stole from ‘Paper Planes’ (as well as Duke Ellington) for my new book. But this is joy in a mash-up (and on a running machine, let me advise).