Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Davies

Attention Span 2010 – Suzanne Stein

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Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Charlotte Mandell | The Fall of Sleep | Fordham | 2009

“But whatever one’s age, no one enters sleep without some sort of lullaby. No one can do without being led along by a cadence one does not even perceive, since it is precisely the cadence of absence that penetrates presence, sometimes in one single movement—in one single push that suddenly sends the present floating alongside itself—sometimes at several times—in several successive waves, like a tide licking the sand and impregnating it a little further each time, depositing flakes of sleepy foam. Rocking movements put us to sleep because sleep in its essence is itself a rocking, not a stable, motionless state. Lullaby: one charms, one enchants, one puts mistrust to sleep before putting wakefulness itself to sleep, one gently guides to nowhere—”

Kevin Davies | Pause Button | Tsunami | 1992

What would it have been to have been myself and to have already have known this?

Franco “Bifo” Berardi, trans. Francesca Cadel and Giuseppina Mecchia | The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy | Semiotext(e) | 2009

Bifo prescribes: more time for talking, traveling, reading, thinking, loving, eating, and dreaming, and less time spent killing ourselves and each other with overproduction and that horrible farce of the contemporary age: “connectivity”. Thumbs up.

Dana Ward | Typing “Wild Speech” | Summer BF Press | 2010

the tender way is wilder than

Robert Glück | reading from About Ed (ms) | The (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand | October 18, 2009

Audiences never give standing ovations at poetry readings, not in the Bay Area anyway that I’ve ever seen, but on this evening Bob received the energetic equivalent of that just walking up to the mic. He read two pieces from a manuscript in progress, About Ed. The first piece would be very short, he let us know, as the second was to be very long. The short piece was called “Ed’s First Sexual Experience (Not Counting His Dad)”, and it involved Ed, Ed’s older lover, an acid (mushroom?) trip, a tree house, and an unexpected bit of coprophilia. This story from the first line had the crowded room laughing—not a little bit laughing, but kind of convulsively, hysterically laughing, embarrassedly laughing, laughing a lot, sweating with laughter, laughing ourselves to tears. The room felt warm, open, rowdy, and there were so many of us in it. What I recall is that the second part, “The Moon is Brighter than the Sun”, was about the death of Ed, and also about the breakup of Bob and Ed. The detail I remember best is that there’s an apartment that Ed moves in to, in the adjacent-to-Castro area, and Bob describes the location of the apartment extensively, what the neighborhood was like then and what it is like to drive past it now, and in the story he and Ed paint the walls of that apartment together, in the middle of their break-up, and maybe they fought a lot or didn’t fight a lot while doing that? Why do breakups so often also involve extreme acts of domesticity? During the breakup, in the story, we’re also in the middle of Ed’s death, the death which occurs much later, and Bob describes the loss of Ed’s death as also the intolerable revisiting of the loss of breaking up. As giddy as the room was during the first story, it was motionless during the second. That piece did go on a very long time, I remember, there was a part about Bob driving out to the beach in the story, or to the Golden Gate Bridge? to scatter Ed’s ashes? Am I misremembering? I want it to be that Bob drove to the Sutro Baths, where I’ve spent a lot of time living & mourning, but I don’t think that’s what happened. I really want to recount something else here too, and this is the way we, the audience, a community of friends and lovers, exes, enemies, “frenemies”, were held so entirely in the palm of the hand of this story of Bob’s. A lot of us were crying in the room that night. Is that stupid to relate? People I’ve been brutal or bitter enough to think had no capacity left for tears or sorrow were weeping openly. We’ve all lost someone, and reliving that loss, or projecting yourself into the inescapable future and feeling it, fucking awful. But being alive and feeling it while breathing and listening, in a room full of others, to Bob Glück—

Brandon Brown | Tooth Fairy; The Orgy; Your Mom’s a Falconress & Other Poems | all self-published | 2009-2010

Trapped in a humanitarian corridor, ordering
the end of the orgy. Ids in their
ordure. Hair odor in
the hallway. My heart struggles.
It’s big as a chard, but it never learns.
Blood makes us pet in the alley
behind the petting gallery. I love
sleep. I love eat. I love the perpendicular
orgy that makes my fingers (…etc)

Chris Kraus | I LOVE DICK | Semiotext(e) | 1997

“Dear Dick, I’m wondering why every act that narrated female lived experience in the 70s has been read only as ‘collaborative’ and ‘feminist’. The Zurich Dadaists worked together too but they were geniuses + had names.”

“I realized the only thing I had to offer was my specificity”

Plus, what’s that bit about how can a straight woman achieve every bit of outness as out, articulated gay pride? Thanks to Stephanie Young for running home after the mani/pedi to fetch the book and bring it back to me as a loan. And thanks again to Chris Kraus & I Love Dick for, on top of everything else, the introduction to the artist Hannah Wilke.

Erika Staiti | Erika has title anxiety until finished and these are unfinished writings | 2009-2010

I love a work, a practice, a thought held open as long as possible, and yet patient and persistent, and these atmospheric performative drafts enact that.

T.J. Clark | The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing | Yale | 2006

Clark spent two months at the Getty looking at two works by 17c painter Nicolas Poussin: Landscape with a Calm and Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake. The subtitle of the book is sort of an egregious caveat: it seems to mean mainly that if you’re a famous art historian you can assert a pass on publishing your diary as crit and your colleagues have to swallow it, but who cares what they think? This was the greatest pleasure of my winter furlough from work, and I was grateful for so attentive a tour of just two paintings. The reproductions are wonderful, and multiple, and the opportunity to listen in on an extended meditation not only on the physical, visual, textual, historic, and metaphoric but also the locally atmospheric and the personally intimate and socially reflective (to the contemporary) felt rare. The writer begins this meditation quoting Poussin: “I who make a profession of mute things”

YouTube | has been | my primary text | of FY10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iF-zSPHwuM

More Suzanne Stein here. Her Attention Span for 2009. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2009 – K. Silem Mohammad

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

Like Davies’ earlier Comp, this is structurally little more than a series of sound bites strung together as “verse.” Yet also like Comp, it crackles with Ecclesiastical scorn and verve. The conscious and subconscious minds are sitting together on a sofa trying to relate the big game to the latest CSPAN feed of senate hearings, and these broadcasts interrupt them.

Craig Dworkin | Parse | Atelos | 2008

Page after page of … parsing. And the text that is parsed (an 1874 grammar manual by Edwin A. Abbott) is itself a treatise on parsing. One might think that this is a perfect example of a “conceptualist” book that asks merely to be thought about rather than read, and for some people that is probably the more attractive option. But those people will miss the metagrammatical massage that prods the reader’s brain into little shudders (not quite paroxysms) of attentiveness, of alertness, of being-in-poetry.

Robert Fitterman | Rob the Plagiarist | Roof Books | 2009

Contains the already-classic “This Window Makes Me Feel,” as well as other manipulations of public discourse and commercial sense-input. Fitterman plays the part of a Benjaminian flaneur, but one as he might exist in the world of John Carpenter’s They Live—a flaneur who is not wearing those special glasses that let you see the aliens and the capitalist dystopia they have erected for what they are.

Robert Fitterman and Vanessa Place | Notes on Conceptualisms | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2009

Shallow art-theory rehash or stimulating commentary on contemporary poetics? Both? Oh, it couldn’t be both. Admit it: for a week or two, you too were reading this little blue booklet and actually trying to make sense of the proposition that conceptual writing is allegorical writing.

K. Lorraine Graham | Terminal Humming | Edge Books | 2009

A deftly casual versish essay on different stages of social ambience (from “droll” to “malignant”). Its timbre is perfectly captured in the title pun: either a bustling public nexus, or a fatal condition of subverbal singing-along. Graham hits a perfect balance of easygoing “girlishness” and sardonic bemusement.

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | ingirumimusnocteetcomsumimurigni | 2009

There should be a periodic announcement made over loudspeakers on the main streets of major cities: Citizens! Why do so many of you seem to have neglected to notice that Kevin Killian is one of our finest poets? Because you were too busy being impressed by his fiction? No excuse. He is also (this is me now, not the loudspeaker) one of the few poets writing today who can still do transmissive (e.g., Spicerian) lyric convincingly. Heartbreakingly.

David Larsen | Names of the Lion | Atticus/Finch 2009

Go find a book that is either a more beautiful physical object or a more stunning instance of creative scholarship. Larsen’s loving translation of Ibn Khalawayh’s treatise (with commentary) should be written up in every arts and literature review section of every major newspaper and magazine worldwide as a major publishing event. Mindbogglingly, this unbearably gorgeous Atticus/Finch “chapbook” (too humble a word) costs only $10.

Chris Nealon | Plummet | Edge Books | 2009

It’s hard to think, in the world of contemporary poetry, of very many books that spawn a popular (I mean, popular among other poets, anyway) catch phrase within what seems like mere moments of their publication. I wouldn’t be surprised to see “I am not gay, I am from the future!” on T-shirts and bumper stickers soon. The obvious stylistic reference point for Nealon’s “voice” is O’Hara, but this is far from being derivative nth-generation New York School; it’s absolutely modern in all the right ways.

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge Books | 2009

Nichols asks early in this book, “can a woman compete with the city”? The question is answered in the pages that follow by a flurry of winged images and phrases like paper scraps from a shredded diary flying down busy streets, between skyscrapers, in and out of shops and offices and homes. Nichols renders both the sensually vivid and mundanely bureaucratic details of everyday life with a lyric attentiveness that constantly places the “nucleus of the individual / in productive tension with the collective expanse of white.”

Jordan Scott | Blert | Coach House Books | 2008

The author, a chronic stutterer, set out deliberately to write poetry that would be hard for him to read aloud. A pretty rudimentary concept, but the resulting verbal bumper car ride taps into essential currents of recent prosodic weather patterns. Rubbery, blubbery, heap big unheimlich fun.

Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocteetcomsumimurigni | 2009

Sometimes I forget that Stephanie Young is not a phenomenally famous pop-soul diva. I really don’t have words to describe the complex and passionate effects her work produces. Tonally and formally, it’s all over the map, and it makes the map look fabulous. Maybe my favorite move of hers (among the many she routinely busts) is her talent for the abrupt declaration of a devastating, obvious fact, such as her observation that “of course the revolution won’t be televised! Not because the most important things don’t appear on television but because the revolution will knock out electrical plants and the TV itself will collapse under the collapsing house.”

More K. Silem Mohammad here.

Attention Span 2009 – John Latta

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

A model book. A sort of anti-book. The whole, in its jostle and jag, its loud call to attend, to refuse to allow one’s attention to plummet into the usual listlessness, functions with impeccable formal force, enacting the cacophonous compendium it musters. . . . What it posits is a supposed world of “radiant connectedness,” a world beyond narrative ploys (“your life has no plot so stop narrating”). Except: it refuses to mete out the necessary credence in that world, the connectedness is a foil, a spark-spitting short in the circuitry, sign of dystopia.

Kent Johnson | Homage to the Last Avant-Garde | Shearsman | 2008

Is Kent Johnson a nervous Nellie, or what? I think he positively thrives on yatter and scorch, that version of the lyrical big itch that accounts for Art and Trouble (two manifestations of one compulsion) amongst all us humankind. He’s always looking to “mix it up a little,” flinging down the fat puff’d up old-style boxing gloves of ego for a little delight in exchange and engagement. Man least likely to consider (or care) about the possibility of looking a little foolish. Besides, he likes people, in all the muddle and mayhem and mopery. Endearing crazy vulnerability and that obscenely huge grease-slick of high ambition. And all of it highly nuanced and terrifically “up front.” . . . What Kent Johnson does—unlike anybody else—is interrogate (badger) that place, that “situation,” its ways and functions, how its writers behave and misbehave, lie to others and themselves, trade favors and insults, pose, vindicate, prance, vilify.

Richard Owens | Delaware Memoranda | BlazeVOX | 2008

Proper care of the materials, human, historic, and natural, a respecting attunement: that’s one place to begin. Everywhere in Owens’s notes and accumulations that make up the six sections of Delaware Memoranda, a poem of the river that pours through the eponymous Water Gap, there is the insistence: “to strike an appropriate key.” Or: “the dire need / to repurpose the trash so rightfully ours.” There’s something supple, all-including, and, most rare, highly moral about Owens’s work here in Delaware Memoranda: unhesitant witness he is, turning up the river’s sluice and item with measure and respect, all the while refusing to make a bright something where there is nothing: “Not to fetishize the fucking river / but to think through the transformation / —how we come—to be to mean / encountering others along the banks.”

Forrest Gander | As a Friend | New Directions | 2008

A kind of skinny roman à clef, a version (with all the fat skimmed off) of some part of Arkansas poet Frank Stanford’s short life. Which is, admittedly, probably the “wrong” way to read anything. And, I admit, it made me itch a little—even in my admiration for the way Gander so deftly turn’d that life into art. . . . I read it in a gulp, one sitting. It is prose pump’d up to a high pitch with no release—a gusto-prose.

C. S. Giscombe | Prairie Style | Dalkey Archive | 2008

Giscombe is entirely capable of shuffling the terms, reassigning the scores, mocking the tune, all in a disturbing sleight-of-hand way that leaves one pop-eyed and shiftless and itchy, wondering if the train’s pull’d out or the stationmaster’s slipped one a mickey, and what about the music?

“Trim paragraphs of uninflected speech hung over the prairie, sound’s origin. Eros came up out of its den in the embankment—came out tawny, came out swarthy, came out more ‘dusky’ than ‘sienna.’ The sky was a glass of water. White men say cock and black men say dick. One gets even in the midwest, one gets even in the midwest, one gets even in the midwest. Eros was a common barnyard pest, now coming to be seen in suburban settings as well, a song with lyrics, clarified and ‘refined’ both . . .”

Distill’d into that signifyin’ fox, “Eros” and “pest” and “song”—“Mistah Fox” elsewhere—is a hugely rich—complicated—history of racial and sexual and geographical attitudes; what’s astonishing is how deftly Giscombe sounds—utters and penetrates—that history.) . . . There’s a kind of ferocious need in Giscombe’s work to annotate, to record the details, a need that struggles against meaning’s lazy splay ravaging of the discernible. I love how—since Here (1994), Giscombe’s books’ve carried notes detailing the precise addresses where composition occurred.

Jeff Hilson | Stretchers | Reality Street Editions | 2006

Out of a terrific essay call’d “Why I Wrote Stretchers,” some “rules” and constraints glean’d: “Each stretcher is nominally a 33-line unit,” a decision made for reasons “ultimately banal, based on [Hilton’s] age at the time of writing the first set.” “The poems incorporate a lot of found material . . . much of it (though by no means all of it) verbal detritus heard or seen on journeys through this city.” “Pillaging cheap secondhand texts for material enforced another kind of reading which was partial, discontinuous and manic.” “Page 33 of texts became for a time a focus.” “The opening is a measure for the rest of the stretcher not necessarily in terms of content, but certainly in terms of (line) length. This is what gives stretchers their shape. If stretchers have a constraint it is that they can’t be too wide.” “All spelling mistakes are deliberate.” “Each stretcher tells a story and each story contains many other stories.” Hilson calls the stretchers “ruins, constructed ruins,” and he “tried whenever possible to avoid the ‘effects” which line ending can produce . . . They are tatters, ragged flags.”

Jeffrey Yang | An Aquarium | Graywolf | 2008

A bestiary of the sea, alphabetical (“Abalone” to “Google” to “Rexroth” to “Zooxanthellae”) and wayward, comic and modest. What I find enthralling: Yang’s restraint (a form of caring, of respect), the near absence of the usual clamoring self, I-identify’d or not. (In “White Whale” one reads “Round and round we wheel / . . . / till self’s freed from ego.”) In its place: taut arrays of (predominantly) fact (“Nature describes its own design.”) intertwined with myth and (mostly point’d) human history, “a felicity of association.” Sense of no padding, the lovely leanness of the notational. . . . Yang is a fierce cultural internationalist in the tradition of Rexroth and Pound (a guideway nigh-completely abandon’d by the presumed inheritors of the lineage, the mostly myopic and homegrown Language writers), capable of drawing on Chinese, Arabic, Mexican, Hawai’ian (see the poem about “Hawaii’s native triggerfish,” the humuhumunukunukuapua’a), Indian, and Old Norse, beyond the usual European and “Classical” sources.

Chris Nealon | Plummet | Edge | 2009

Plummet is nigh-terrific. Nealon works a supple long line (“I know prose is a mighty instrument but still I feel that plein-air lyric need to capture horses moving” he writes in “Poem (I know prose . . .)”) and, in a world seemingly divided between the jaunty and the raunchy, chooses both (“Your job? Just keep cracking Demeter up” slides uneasily into “At the gates of Arabic I enter, illiterately // Actually I know two words // shaheed / habibi // I watch depictions of electrocution under bright fluorescent lighting with a slightly elevated heartbeat” into “Do I have an astral body or a tapeworm?”), Verve and wit is what regulates (without throttling) the underlying political rage of the book.

we’re here to puke in many colors—

elf-puke, witch-puke, giant-puke

disco puke and punk puke

vomit on the apron of the government

vomit on the boots of the police

it’s January 17, 1991

it’s March 20, 2003

It’s morning

Puke and sing

(Out of longer poem call’d “Sunrise.” The dates, obviously, of the beginnings of “our” two illegal and preemptive incursions—wars—against the sovereign state of Iraq.)

Elizabeth Marie Young | Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize | Fence Books | 2009

The revels and joys of utter excess. Thumbing through: “prose poems,” though too raggedly untidy (odd long or variably short paragraph indentations, queer titular sprawl erratics, stuff that looks, not squared off blocky, something like verse with midriff-bulge). Studious (or not) “can’t be bother’d”-ismus. The titles blare infidelity to any serious “pose” (or “poise”) whilst generally avoiding the crime of the “merely zany.” . . . I love the spastic anarchy of it, the ga-ga gawkinesses, the insouciant (possibly “intentional”) “errors” (“bells . . . peel”), the odd conjunct of the various alluded-to’s (Hemingway, Gene Stratton-Porter, The Waste Land, one hit wonder Gary Wright). I like its push against the tidy, the finely-wrought, I like its ramp’d up rampant all-over energy with broken off threads (or sunken under-juttings) of random narrative.

Hoa Nguyen | Hecate Lochia | Hot Whiskey Press | 2009

Nguyen’s work is sparse (sprawl’d), notational, constellatory, measured. Too, it is uncensoring, all-encompassing, both domestic (“Wipe poop,” “Grackles in the hackberry” “Bendy vegetables in the drawer”) and liable to jut off anywhere (“Levittown goes ‘green’ / Oil at $100 a barrel,” “Cupid rides a goddam dolphin / at the hand of Venus”). I think it’s easy to mistake Nguyen’s seemingly casual jottings—and the quick variousness of the turns there, quotidian detritus, news reports, stray conversational gambits, syntactical goofs, myth-hints East and West—for “mere” verbal manifestations of dailiness, its root unstructuredness. Too, though, there’s a push toward myth and ritual that seems always on the verge of intervening / disrupting the quotidian notational. The stunning Kiss a Bomb Tattoo (Effing, 2009) arrived nigh-simultaneously.

Jack Collom and Lyn Hejinian | Situations, Sings | Adventures in Poetry | 2008

Out of the “Postface”: “Beginning with the exchange of free-verse lines that (some 300 mailings later) became Sunflower (originally published by The Figures in 2000), we gradually multiplied and diversified our projects. Soon, a typical exchange would include ten or so formally different works.

Only one of these works, called ‘Interview,’ is not included in this volume; we anticipate that it will appear as an independent book, a companion (though not a necessary companion) to this one.

Apart from ‘Interview,’ all the poems we’ve composed together to date are collected here. There are eleven of them.”

More John Latta here.

Attention Span 2009 – Scott Thurston

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Karen Mac Cormack | Implexures (Complete Edition) | Chax Press and West House Books | 2008

I’d read extracts from this project first in The Gig back in 2004, then got hold of the beautiful Chax / West House edition of the first nineteen parts published in 2003. Mac Cormack has written what she calls a ‘polybiography’, responding to a family history written by her great- aunt Susan Hicks Beach and letters to and from her own grandparents and parents, whilst traversing an extraordinary array of other discourses from post-structuralist theory to cultural history and etymology. At its launch in London in June 2008, Alan Halsey summed it up when he said it’s both not a big book and it is a big book because there’s a lot in it. This is a very rich text indeed.

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

I was first presented with this book by its author on a visit to Maine at Easter 2009 and my re-reading of it is even now bound up with that locale. Moxley continues her project of revivifying the lyric, and all that entails, in a collection of reflective poems on the possibilities that being both presents and denies us. Some of the poems here come on in a similar mode to Moxley’s autobiography The Middle Room in the way they handle experience and memory, and all the pieces have an understated technical assurance that constantly reminds one of the possibilities of language itself. I shall be re-reading these pieces for a long time to come: a phrase which stays with me is ‘my accuracy is unstable’.

Caroline Bergvall | Cropper | Torque Press | 2008

In common with the two previous titles, Bergvall’s book explores the autobiographical mode and is a story of her relationships with language(s) (French, Norwegian and English) and desire, and a demand that the body be heard in-between. The piece unsettles the English it is written in with orthographical, phonological and cross-linguistic play and also incorporates lines in Norwegian (the piece was a response to write a text in Norwegian, only partly met). However, it is also one of Bergvall’s most candid pieces to date – deepening my understanding of how the complex range of formal practices in her work all stem from the way in which she experiences herself as on the border of languages.

Andrea Brady | Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination | Dispatx | 2006

This text has been online for some time and this indeed is its natural habitat as it was designed with a tapestry of hyperlinks woven in to indicate source materials, which are legion. As a way of revealing the compositional approach of the author, these links are very generous. That said, I found my encounter with the piece only really took off when I painstakingly cut and paste sections together to form a printable copy (I have admitted this to the author!). In this work Brady explores the history of Greek Fire as an analogue of the use of White Phosphorous in the attack on Fallujah in 2004. Thought through a trail of damages that includes the horrific treatment of phosphorous workers at a match factory in London’s East End, this is a highly political poem that is full of memorable and disquieting images. Still available online at dispatx.com.

Robert Musil, trans. Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike | The Man Without Qualities | Picador | 1997

I’m still only about half way through this massive, unfinished novel, that I’ve been digesting in slow intense chunks over a six month period. This is a book often compared to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time or Joyce’s Ulysses, but to me it also illuminates and complements the works of two great C20th Polish novelists: Stanislaw Witkiewicz (Nienasycenie – Insatiability) and Witold Gombrowicz (several novels and the infamous Dziennik – Diary). Musil’s observational writing is superb but it is the way he handles the theme of cultural change which is totally fascinating and which makes the book seem fresh and relevant to our current predicaments. As Karen Mac Cormack has pointed out, at times it reads like a philosophical treatise.

James Lovelock | The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning | Allen Lane | 2009

The creator of the Gaia hypothesis, a theory of the Earth as a physiological system, and inventor of the electron capture detector, Lovelock’s scientific credentials are second to none, which makes the impact of this book about as gloomy as can be imagined. Lovelock essentially argues that we need a shift in emphasis in green thinking from sustainability to managed retreat in the face of inevitable global climate change. This book cuts through much received thought about green issues, for example Lovelock is a strong advocate of nuclear power, and though doubtless raising as many problems as it ‘solves’ for the scientific community, to the lay reader this is urgent and important information.

Gil Ott | traffic | Chax Press | 2001

I first fell in love with Ott’s work when I read an extract from his Zasterle Press book The Whole Note on Silliman’s Blog. That was about as perfect a book I could imagine at the time and perhaps still is, though traffic is also remarkable. Complete with a generous preface (in content rather than length), this is a long slow burner that I seem to favour reading on trains at present. Each page has a short verse or verses then a space then a short prose paragraph at the bottom. Endlessly fascinating, meticulous and rewarding poetry: ‘this poem, the notebook open on the bed where you might find it. One is one alone, is one among others’.

Kevin Davies | Comp. | Edge Books | 2000

Miles Champion told me years ago I should read this, but I had to actually go to the United States to secure a copy (thanks Steve!). I’ve since learned that Davies has only published one book since so at least I’m not too far behind as this was a real wake-up call even nine years after its first publication. A review by Brian Kim Stefans noted Jeff Derksen’s use of the term ‘rearticulatory’ which seems to me the way to go in keeping a post-Language political critique alive and kicking. And this book definitely is. And hilarious: ‘Entropy is built into the chicken’!

Maggie O’Sullivan | Waterfalls | Etruscan Books | 2009-08-13

A handsome cloth-bound edition of pieces which I’d only previously read in photocopied pamphlet form. O’Sullivan’s stunning poems really benefit from resetting and the addition of colour to her images but they are as tantalisingly incantatory as ever, poems to spell with, to do ritual by: ‘DID YOU KNOW THE AIR – THE WASH OF HAZEL / MAPPED ON THE SWING OF HER SIGHT?’ Parts of the work are responses to the Irish Famine of 1845-52 and explore O’Sullivan’s own Irish roots.

Nicholas Johnson | SHOW | Etruscan Books | 2001

This book shows English verse music working to its full height and depth in long-lined long lyric poems which make the everyday world full of rich, almost mythic, potential. There are also voices here, heavily accented, speaking in dialect in a way which reminds me of the late, great Bill Griffiths, whose last book Johnson published with his own Etruscan press. The book closes with ‘The Margarete-Sulamith Cycles of Anselm Kiefer’ which responds to Celan’s ‘Todesfuge’ and is practically a sound poem.

Jacques Rancière, trans. Gabriel Rockhill | The Politics of Aesthetics | Continuum | 2008

I tend to read theory as poetics, for what can inform practice, and this was a productive encounter for me. I don’t know other works by Rancière although at times he seemed to be simply going over the commonplaces of postmodern theory, including ideas associated with Lyotard in particular, without acknowledgement. However, it is his notion of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ (le partage du sensible), a law that produces a system of self-evident facts of perception, that enables his assertion of the aesthetic dimension as inherent in any radical emancipatory politics, by ‘undoing the relations between the visible, the sayable and the thinkable.’

More Scott Thurston here.

Attention Span 2009 – Rae Armantrout

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Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Ahsahta | 2009

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

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

Ben Doller | FAQ | Ahsahta | 2009

Elizabeth Robinson | The Orphan | Fence | 2008

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Kit Robinson | The Messianic Trees | Adventures in Poetry | 2009

Joseph Massey | Areas of Fog | Shearsman | 2009

Roberto Bolano | 2666 | Farrar Strauss | 2008

Merlin Donald | A Mind So Rare | Norton | 2001

More Rae Armantrout here.

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.

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More Dawn Michelle Baude here.

Attention Span – Rod Smith

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John Ashbery | Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems | Ecco

Robert Creeley | Selected Letters | manuscript

Mark Cunningham | 80 Beetles | Otilith

Kevin Davies | The Golden Age of Paraphernalia | Edge

Peter Gizzi | The Outernationale | Wesleyan

Aerial 10: Lyn Hejinian Special Issue | manuscript

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

Sharon Mesmer | Annoying Diabetic Bitch | Combo

Mel Nichols | Bicycle Day | Slack Buddha

Tom Raworth | Let Baby Fall | Critical Documents

plus one:

McKenzie Wark | 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International | Buell Center/Forum

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More Rod Smith here.