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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Killian

Attention Span 2011 | Melanie Neilson

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Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009

Anne Boyer | The Romance of Happy Workers | Coffee House | 2008

Rod Smith | Deed | Iowa | 2007

CA Conrad | The Book of Frank | Chax | 2009

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Steve Farmer | Glowball | Theenk | 2010

Eileen Myles | The Importance of Being Iceland | Semiotext(e) | 2009

Sianne Ngai | Ugly Feelings | Harvard | 2005

Jerry Lewis | The Total Film-Maker | Random | 1971

Kevin Killian | Impossible Princess | City Lights | 2009

Monica de la Torre | Public Domain | Roof | 2008

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Gertrude Stein | Lucy Church Amiably | Something Else | 1930 reissued 1969

Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian | My Vocabulary Did This to Me | Wesleyan | 2008

Philip Whalen, ed. Michael Rothenberg | The Collected Poems | Wesleyan | 2007

Lew Welch, ed. Donald Allen | Ring of Bone: Collected 1950-1970 | Grey Fox | 1979

Donald Bogle | Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters | Harper Collins | 2011

Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. | Race Music | California |2003

Bern Porter | Found Poems | Nightboat | 2011

Jessica B. Harris | High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America | Bloomsbury | 2011

James Lee Burke | Detective Dave Robicheaux series of 18 thrillers set in Louisiana: The Neon Rain to The Glass Rainbow | Pocket | 1989-2010

Lewis Klahr, Engram Sepals | Melodramas (sequence of seven 16mm films, 75 minutes) | 1994-2000

Elvis Presley | The Country Side of Elvis | RCA | 2001

Raymond Chandler, performed by Elliott Gould | Red Wind (1938) | New Millennium Audio | 2002

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More Melanie Neilson here.

Neilson’s Attention Span for 2009. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Jeanine Webb

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Joshua Clover | Fragment on the Machine | Handmade chapbook, 4 poems plus translations into French by Abigail Lang | 2011

“Gilded Age”’s throwdown aphorisms: “The best poetry will have contempt for its era but so will the worst” ; “it must align itself with work—meaning hatred/of work—it must desire/change so much it is accused of being in love/with annihilation.” Dante’s Francesca in the whirlwind of the Inferno’s 5th Canto illumed as the subject of circulation of capital, of love’s inability to fully remove us from this peregrination (Yeats, yes), where we are caught “sweet with longing” as “downwards to darkness/on extended credit” we fall, the industries of the empire abandoned massively still shining on the farther shore of the crisis—

Brian Ang | Paradise Now | grey book | 2011

Lenin horizontal, orgies on acid, free education Pavlovas, FLCL metabeer, bankrupt Chocobos anniliate the banks, and you know, cats. Receive +3 Intellect. Bitey. Ang,: “My poems disturb myself.” Perhaps an increasingly worthy aspiration.

Claude Closky | Les miens suivi de Biennales | Éditions Al Dante | 2009

Conceptual French poet uses celebrity names as raw material for sonnets in alexandrines, then juxtaposes them to poems formed in the same way from the names of artists from the Biennales. Surprising wit and pleasure quotient gained in reading them.

Uyen Hua | a/s/l | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2011

Age, sex, location. Melancholy, dendrital, funny-ass remix that understands our divided hearts, and keeps our constellations while avoiding mere glibdom (Lil Wayne approached like a pietà, heartfelt dreams involving Kevin Spacey, bombs in Kandahar mixed with tabloid hot or not sorrows). The “fee” one “pays to Mary J. Blige.” These are “songs about us.” “sometimes you just have to shrug/ put the record on repeat.” Dude, it’s so like that. Everyone I know is already imitating her, she’s that good. ❤

Chris Nealon | Plummet | Edge | 2009

Dear Chris Nealon, I can read this book again and again. And have this year. You make my trips to the drugstore so much better because I think of your lines on “pure despair.” It’s a groove. “If you treat the day as a melody, is that a kind of friendliness? Or text – is genre friendly?” I’m happy to dance to this workable theory up in da club. “Future anterior, hey/I’m running a little late” The system (thankfully) is still breaking down.

Juliana Spahr & Stephanie Young | A Megaphone | ChainLinks | 2011

Welcome outpouring of shiny ludic incisiveness and awful fact. Rhizomatic tentacled global hybridity and voices of women on their poetry communities and projects. Expansive, best read in doses, to my mind. Feels productively circular. Includes Spahr’s and Young’s great essay from 2007, “Numbers Trouble,” the importance of which 2010’s VIDA study again affirmed, to our dismay and ongoing critique.

K. Lorraine Graham | Terminal Humming | Edge | 2009

Honeycombs of zircon bureaucracy and power beeswax in the passive servomechanisms and pentagons. “I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled/wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was funfunfun.” Ready to bloodlet (blow up) through lacrosse (soup and salad) and an axe (automatic shredder) and go with produce bounce (get potassium). “Schizoid and hermetic.” Incandescent anger illuminates a lot for the ALIVE. “Missing trains, feeling wild in empty transit gates.”; “Female/until further notice.”

Tu Fu, tr. David Hinton | The Selected Poems of Tu Fu | New Directions | 1989

For when the crows come in from far capitals and tumbleweeds skip over the wells. “Mountain yellows fall. Startled I call out to my son Are there northern winds?” We are facing snow. “There isn’t time for new dikes. Enlisting /Mu Wang’s turtles and crocodiles is impossible.” The moaning of painted horns, will it ever stop? “Let’s talk things over, little buds—open delicately, sparingly.”

Frank O’Hara | manuscript translation of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) | unknown date

Wouldn’t you like to know! The text’s a continuous block with no forced carriage returns or lineation, though Mallarmé’s capitals are retained. It is my conviction that this intrapoet formal denial experiment produces a new kind of beauty all compact. Writing about it, when I can. It’s like two of the hot poets I love having sex in my mind because and well furthermore that’s what is IS.

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

Glitter hymn and invocation to the “secret understanding” of fan and diva, touched by “cold, hard” tears. A “secret understanding” that is also like “E.M. Forster’s concept of homosexuality as a willed gift.” Also, more, you know, cats.

Sandra Simonds | Warsaw Bikini | Bloof | 2008

I read at least one half of this on the beach in Kona in a bikini. The semantics are aggregrated gloriously and constantly threaten to deforest themselves. Or hammerhead shark-attack themselves. Plathian and Beckettish in the most brainy and sinister sense: manic nursery rhymes and the social contaminations, water wasps, the awful Doctor Dura Mater undercarriage.

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Jeanine Webb’s poems have appeared in many journals, most recently in ARMED CELL, with two poems forthcoming in Lana Turner. Her essay on celebrity and poetics will appear in Tripwire. She helps organize San Diego’s Agitprop reading series and edits the cartonera-style journal TACOCAT. 

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Attention Span 2011 | Kevin Killian

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Martine Bellen | Ghosts! | Spuyten Duyvil | 2011

Martine Bellen is one of the poets I most often wish I had met; when I read her work I feel the thrill of making a new friend, someone just for me. Her new book Ghosts! begins with a sensational, almost flip title and never looks back. Sketched within three series of poems, a woman’s story reflects and refracts through the brackets of life and death, and the “story,” as I have called it, never manages to dry into any flat sort of wholeness. How to see her? It would be like defining what Ingrid Bergman was like through the six films she made with Rossellini. What happens in Ghosts! is, on the other hand, strikingly similar to what happens to Ingrid in Europa 51 and that one with George Sanders—we change, change utterly as the words mount up to our waists like dry leaves in a red country.

Gregg Biglieri | Little Richard the Second | Ugly Duckling | 2011

Ugly Duckling puts out some striking books and this one, without a spine or really much of anything holding it together except for a length of brown string and a trio of tiny bored holes, is one of the fairest. Biglieri’s poem is pretty short and is printed I think all on one side of a length of paper with two dozen folds in it. Every time you turn a page you’re conscious of the pages as uncut; squeeze them between your fingers and they balloon out, revealing blank folds underneath. The writing produces an uncanny, And Then There Were None feel of words eating themselves, disappearing before one’s eyes, often enough through a puns and anagrams approach Mel Taub himself might envy. Or “Captain Mnemo,” Biglieri’s mascot. “Hurt his iris/Hiss her ear.” Yes, it’s a short book, but humankind cannot stand much reality.

Brandon Brown | The Persians by Aeschylus | Displaced | 2011

 Displaced Press from Michigan has put forward an awesome initiative, printing the first books of a handful of young American poets I’ve been following for some time. One of them is Brandon Brown, a figure on the San Francisco poetry scene whom I first met some years ago when I enlisted him to help me and Peter Gizzi and our work on collecting Jack Spicer’s poetry. Brown is a classicist and it shows up in his work to an almost irksome degree, but his book is a rousing reminder, not perhaps of the relevance of ancient Greek drama, but of the ways in which change is forever written into all things, a golden thread amid the dreck. I remember hearing about the poets’ production of The Persians, held outdoors at the Presidio, and I was actually present for a scene or two Brown delivered onstage at Timken Hall, where the parallels between the Persians of Aeschylus’ days, and the Iranians of ours, were made very clear through deft riffs of stagecraft, declamation, and an Olsonian take on the function of the city in poetry.

Stacy Doris| The Cake Part | Publication Studio | 2011

People know so little about the French revolution, but they do remember the cake part. Publication Studio is a sort of “print on demand” company based in Portland (Oregon) that can take on the most innovative and complicated sort of project, and has made a perfect match with Stacy Doris’ unique text application. Part found poem, part manifesto, part investigative poetry, and sometimes as silly as Ronald Firbank. In recent months she asked a whole bunch of poets and other friends to make little videos based on assigned parts of her book, so I got to know “mine” pretty well, and to launch the book she posted them all on her own Vimeo channel which please check out. This sort of history lesson is infectious, like a show and tell lesson combined with a trip in the Wayback Machine—there can be nothing, literally, more outlandish.

Jennifer Natalya Fink | Thirteen Fugues | Dark Coast | 2011

Fink is the veteran author of several books, but she keeps surprising the attentive reader. Her stories share textual strategies with prose poetry, woven together out of myriad weaves and looms, tying themselves together in what I, if I knew more about music, would ascribe to some sort of fugal structure. Here the stories slash prose passages accrete into what could almost be a novel in the hands of a lesser writer, and sometimes prose itself breaks down into the stronger and harsher mode of poetry itself, line breaks and all, when “Tanya,” Fink’s appealing and yet scary heroine, decides to stop making sense and to give her soul a little room to breathe. Fink ignores also the conventional geographies of writing, and her book transports itself with abandon from South America, to Canada, to the US suburbs of her deep affection.

Colleen Lookingbill | A Forgetting Of | Lyric& | 2011

Did you ever write something, almost a book’s worth of it, and then you put it away for one reason or another? Perhaps life intervened, perhaps something more interesting than life. In the gritty and determined world of A Forgetting Of, Colleen Lookingbill performs a complex and dangerous operation, that of reviving a forgotten body of poems. She had made a wonderful debut in the 1990s with her first book, Incognita, and then nothing. So much talent and grace, however, coupled with a health scare while she was still young, could not let the matter rest. From somewhere deep within, and accompanied by a suite of full color paintings very much in the Romantic vein of the poems, a book came to life, and a family of fans, at last, finds entertainment.

Deborah Meadows | Saccade Patterns | BlazeVOX | 2011

She has published ten books of poetry since 2003, and here comes an eleventh. I’m sure that, like Leslie Scalapino used to, she will forgive you if you haven’t read all of her oeuvre. (RIP Leslie!) Saccade Patterns are apparently the movements of your eyeballs in your heads, back and forth, up and down, the rotations eyes make continually until pattern recognition momentarily soothes that restless urge to know. Meadows has been good at evoking patterns (of loss, of recognition, of right and wrong) for a decade, and here she steps back from the powers of her own sight and applies what she’s learned to the social and political problems that engorge our times.

Jennifer Moxley | Coastal | The Song Cave | 2011

Steve, you thought you could box in Jennifer by referring to her then-ongoing long poem “Coastal” as “your 9/11 poem”? Ha ha, she responds with a quick twist of her poniard. But I sympathize with you because to all intents and purposes I agree a little. “Coastal” is a continuous unfolding of a book that contrasts the southern Maine of Moxley’s present surround, with the Southern California in which she grew up, and in the telling, Maine comes to stand in synecdochically for middle age itself, San Diego for youth. And the poem organizes itself along these lines (there’s also a James Schuyler/Rae Armantrout dialectic) until the artist reveals that despite obvious differences, the similarities that link worlds together—poetry and painting—the East and the West—the heterosexual and the lesbian—the past and the present—are more provocative, more enigmatic. I’m sure you were just testing this theory when you made your now famous faux pas.

Olumide Popoola | This Is Not About Sadness | Unrast Verlag | 2010

The reverberations of African revolution shake up a mixed neighborhood in a working class backwater of London. This is the first full-length book by the Nigerian-German author Olumide Popoola, published in English in Munster. Wait, is that the same as Munich? When “Olu” came to San Francisco recently, introduced to me and Bob Glück by UK novelist Shaun Levin and by Olu’s advisor the poet Tim Atkins, we had the feeling that a necessary voice was being heard, and that the world had expanded from within. “We don’t measure in impossibility/ in anguish or that which sliups/ through our hands,” writes Popoola. Two women, one old, the other young, meet in London—two different Africas in their pasts, and the secrets they have kept begin to break down under London’s weak and tenuous sun.

Jane Sprague, ed. | Imaginary Syllabi! | Palm Press | 2011

This has got to be the funnest book I’ve read in eons. Editor Sprague’s opening statement tells us that she has made up a book by multiple authors “that aims to collect writings which […] essentially challenge pedagogical strategies pursuant to the work of teaching writing and other disciplines.” The book has some utopian syllabi, but not all of them are as imaginary as others, and some have actually been taught in classes in college programs in official “and mongrel” schools. An expansiveness fills the volume, even when the courses offered have a touch of our 21st century despair to them; Sprague must have felt like, oh who was it put out that “curriculum of the soul” and assigned all his favorite poets to writer on all those topics in the 1970s? Anyhow I think you get the gist. OK, not all of the contributions are of equal value, but I can see myself as an eternal student making use of them all for my own edification. And if I ever teach a poetry course I’ll be thinking primarily not of my own students, but of how to make my syllabus thrilling enough to get into Sprague 2.0.

Nicholas James Whittington | Slough | Bird & Beckett | 2010

I read the whole book several times and only now, as I struggle to type out the author’s name and the name of his book for the demanding readers of “Attention Span” have I realized that the book is not called Slouch, but Slough. It is the sort of California-landscape poetry, honed and polished to a few memorable lines per page, that I think of as the province of sloughmaster Joseph Massey of Arcata, but no, in fact it is written by someone totally different, and someone with his own sort of dreamy and visionary consciousness, a man with more air in his slough, with more than a trace of Beat DNA in his blood. And Jabès too. It is a wellshaped book, not quite small enough to fit in your hip pocket, but you could slip it into a trenchcoat pocket without protest and with a certain synchronicity. “Tell me where you live,” Whittington writes, “light’s particles shall settle in/ troughs of your voice.” I’m saying he ain’t no slouch.

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Kevin Killian is a San Francisco writer  His books include Bedrooms Have Windows, Shy, Little Men, Arctic Summer, Argento Series, I Cry Like a Baby, and Action Kylie.  His new book of stories is called Impossible Princess (from City Lights Books).

Killian’s Attention Span for 2010200920072006200520042003. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Joel Bettridge

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Kaia Sand | Remember to Wave | Tinfish | 2010

Roberto Tejada | Exposition Park | Wesleyan | 2010

Nancy Kuhl | Suspend | Shearsman | 2010

Graham Foust | A Mouth in California | Flood | 2009

Kate Greenstreet | The Last 4 Things | Ahsahta |  2009

John Williams | Stoner | New York Review Books | 1965

Gino Segrè | Faust in Copenhagen | Viking | 2007

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, trans. Sidney Monas | Crime and Punishment | Signet | 1968

Jane Sprague | The Port of Los Angeles | Chax | 2009

Richard J. Pioli, editor | Stung by Salt and Water: Creative Texts of the Italian Avant-gardist F. T. Marinetti | Lang | 1987

Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi & Kevin Killian | My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer | Wesleyan | 2008

More Joel Bettridge here. His Attention Span for 2009, 2008. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Kevin Killian

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Steven Farmer | Glowball | theenk | 2010

Farmer is one of those writers who just don’t get published enough, for often when I look at current events I long to find out what Steve Farmer’s take on it will be, and then ten years later, in a book like Glowball, it’s still the news that makes news.  He is always inventive, and his long poems have a shapely quality to them denied to some of his peers. Even in a traditional attraction such as the metaphor, his are exceedingly gorgeous: I like the “greater Los Angeles area” as a “manuscript in a parking lot.” You can tell he takes the long view: the cover is a Robert Fisk photo of US bomb activity in Iraq, and makes it seem like the “return to immensity” nasty old George Bataille was cheerleading for in his cold-war take on de Sade. Well, a sort of jewel box awaits you, courtesy of Palmyra New York and its mighty little theenk Books, and when you read Glowball, that it came from Palmyra will seem so apropos.

Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg, eds. | Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque burlesque poetics | Saturnalia | 2010

Lost in the gritty and fabulous world of Gurlesque, it’s easy to forget the whole rest of the world that doesn’t have unicorns with green tails. So many talented writers, all of them working the same vein. Yet as Judith Halberstam assures us, it’s more of a sensibility than a similarity of content; well, that’s true but it seems like a genre too—can a genre and a sensibility equate to the same thing? After reading Gurlesque I have new thoughts about New Narrative of all things, for the two whatevers share more than a coincidental number of common concerns surely: the fixation on shame and embarrassment, the use of gossip to promote social upheaval, the deployment of kitsch, porn and pop to soak the very texture of the poem with discomfort. I’m just upset because Tina Brown Celona’s poem “Event History” shows me up as being sort of a dick. Apparently I snubbed her at a poetry reading, and what’s scary is, I might do so again having never met her and not realizing she’s a Madame Defarge with an elephant’s memory.

Natalie Knight | Archipelagos | Punch | 2009

I heard of her first in connection with her poets theater work and her collaboration with Rodrigo Toscano, but I have been lucky enough to see a fair amount of her poetry too. Richard Owens from Punch Press put out this lovely little book late last year. It ends with a preface—why don’t more books do this?—and begins with one too. In fact it’s a book that meets itself in the middle, or throws itself out like a boomerang and spins itself back in, an able angler. The poem, like a mirror, throws its light back and forth from subject to object. Images of thirst, inertia, desiccation suggest not only a crisis of nature, but an economic arrhythmia troubling the desert like the serpent monster in that Tremors movie with Kevin Bacon long ago. “We mastered weather while soldiers manned uranium rigs in the depths of this unconscious planet.”

Rachel Levitsky | Neighbor | Ugly Duckling | 2009

Neighbor has the feel of a book I will return to often over the next years, and it has also a back story that Levitsky outlines in her back matter that just floors me. I knew writing poetry was hard, but I never thought that I could get a village to help me through! What one comes away with in Neighbor is the sense of a sharply individuated voice, mediating all sorts of very charged political and emotional material, but also the sense, a comforting sense, of the power that a likeminded cohort of massed energies (“many in solitary”) can bequeath to a long project. The upshot is that Neighbor begins well and just gets better and better and better—well, there’s a poets theater type of piece which not everybody is going to love as much as I do—but I can’t picture anyone not swooning over—like bobbysoxers at the Paramount when Sinatra took the microphone—over the final section “The Desire of the Writer,” in which practically every line is great, for how often does that happen, really happen?

Sawako Nakayasu | Texture Notes | Letter Machine | 2010

With characteristic abandon, Sawako Nakayasu named her book after her long-ago blog, retaining that insouciant “notes” flavor that, when I see it in a book title, always makes me think, maybe I should wait for the real thing? “Notes” has a throwaway or at any rate provisional quality to it, though I suppose since Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” has attained more and more that feeling of terminal status that it was meant originally to deflect. Needless to say, Texture Notes is to texture as a Handbook to Surfing was to surfing, i.e., perhaps the last words on the subject. Oysters, she writes, to Paul Foster Johnson, embody the wet more than any other food or beverage, even water. You might wipe your eyes with one, “or rather, desperate for something that could act as a tonic, I would feed it to the next person who was in danger of drying out, yes you.” In other entries she considers the texture of danger, the texture of a raw red cow tongue in her mouth, the “physicality of intelligence” she detects in sumo. Left side right side of the brain: there’s nothing on the left side of each pair of pages, but a title and a dedication; on the right side is all the poetry. I had almost said “meat” because I’m getting so textural. Meat—the traffic of the internal plumbing.

Stan Persky & Brian Fawcett | Robin Blaser | New Star | 2010

I’m a sucker for any book called Robin Blaser, but this one is especially tasty, being that it was written by two of the former protégés of Robin Blaser, the American-born Canadian poet who left us last year. It’s not a collaboration per se, but rather a canny editor’s linking of two lengthy articles; however I find the conjunction very intriguing. Persky met Blaser in North Beach in the late 1950s, during his immersion in the Duncan/Spicer circle that proved an in-depth education for the young seaman. Fawcett’s encounter with Blaser was rather different, he was a young student right off the farm when he wound up in one of the first classes polymath Blaser taught in a formal setup (at Simon Fraser University in B.C. Funny thing is neither man writes poetry nowadays. In fact, Fawcett turns his half of the book into a blistering J’Accuse against the follies of the New American Poetry. I’m like, oh really? And yet the book has, of course, a depth of philosophical inquiry that will help many unravel the mysteries of Blaser.

Tom Raworth, trans. and ed. Gabriela Jauregui | El Tiempo Se Volvio Cuero | Sur +/avra ediciones | 2009

Gabriela Jauregui of Mexico City, who wrote one of my favorite books of poetry of 2008 (Controlled Decay) told me of her long immersion in the work of Tom Raworth and got me all excited when she said she had been translating his work into Spanish. And now here the book is, in a bilingual edition that, as I read through it, may I realize be the best selection of Raworth’s writing that we have. What comes to mind is the speed with which Raworth plows through his readings, so fast he’s huffing and puffing through the end, and the speed of Spanish, the multiple vowels and syllables so that there’s even more to hear and more to experience. Maybe a year back I went down to Glendale to hear Raworth and Juaregui read together for this book’s launch at the Poetics Research Bureau; sometimes he’d read, sometimes she would, but when they stood side by side and erased simultaneously it was better than the Kentucky Derby or Seabiscuit! I should also say that Juaregui’s notes (footnotes) in El Tiempo deserve their own five stars.

Sarah Rosenthal | A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Writers of the Bay Area | Dalkey Archive | 2010

Sarah Rosenthal’s idea of the Bay Area writing community is hardly mine, but how I envy the poets who got to sit down and glory in all those sharply focussed, attentive and ultimately liberating questions she asks. She seems to have read everything each of her subjects has written, and to have it all at the tip of her tongue. It must be heaven to be so understood! At times such depth of knowledge leads to comic effects: Barbara Guest, faced with a multipart reading of her difficult work, seems so pleased that all she responds with is, “Yes,” or “What you’re saying is true.” I’m happy to see the New Narrative ably represented by Bob Glück and Camille Roy, but after a promising appearance in Rosenthal’s introduction, the Language poets seem to be disappeared from the bulk of the book, save by Bob explaining that life here in SF has become less bellicose in recent years, now that Tom Mandel, Ron Silliman, Barrett Watten and Bob Perelman have all moved along.

Nathaniel Siegel | Tony | Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs | 2009

In short, sharp little lines that resemble the bursts of memory and shame of a young man’s journey towards gay self-acceptance, Nathaniel Siegel’s psychological acuity and his skill prevent him from ever getting too sappy about it. It is the sort of poem I wish I could have written, a montage of scenes appearing quickly, then flash, you’re in another awkward, sexy place with a musical soundtrack, and even sweeter, the names of boys and men like a litany of broken promises. He gets everything right, even the moment of steeling up your courage to come out to your brother, like he didn’t already know years ago. Each stanza I would have worked up into a touching short story, but here it’s the speed and the accuracy of the notation that matter, like what’s his name, like listening to an old Art Tatum session and shaking your head in wonder and envy. By the end, you have lived a stranger’s life so intensely he’s become your comrade, your rabbi, your favorite boyfriend.

Christopher Wagstaff, ed. | Paul Alexander: On Black Mountain College and the San Francisco Scene | Rose Books | 2010

I know that I promised Brian Fawcett I would have no more truck with the evil New American Poetry, and yet this beautiful transcription of three mid-1980s interviews with the painter Paul Alexander broke my vow right away. (This book is #3 in a Rose Books series called “Painters of the San Francisco Renaissance.”) Paul Alexander, happily still alive and working in northern California, was a student in the late, decadent flowering of Black Mountain and came west with the others once the college closed in 1956. He worked closely with Olson, Duncan, Keilty, Borregaard, Jess, Adam, maybe not so much with Jack Spicer, though his younger brother Jim was one of the key figures in Spicer’s artistic development. Alexander, Tom Field and a few others found themselves at odds with the artistic trends of their time, ignored both by New York and by the SFAI/”6” Gallery artists like Deborah Remington and Wally Hedrick, but they persevered despite it all. Their uncanny work is ripe for full rediscovery.

David Wolach | Occultations | Black Radish | 2010

I come to this work thinking of the meetings I’ve attended of the Nonsites Collective here in San Francisco, a movement that has certainly inflected Bay Area writing practice over the past couple years. Wolach seems one of the most talented of a phalanx of talented participants, but I will have to read Occultations many more times to tell you how I really feel about it. He must have given his designers hell, as do many performance artists-turned-book poets, for nearly every page has some visual stunt going on to amplify or complicate the already dense and Halpernian movement of the words. This is a writing attuned gingerly to a certain amount of pain, proposing itself in a world where it’s always 3:30 in the morning.  I admire what he does with his body, and the advocacy with which Occultations speaks for (or to, perhaps) the victims of brutality, government indifference or policy, the heteronormative dictatorship, and disease. It’s a long book, but it’s been a long war.

More Kevin Killian here. His Attention Span for 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 . Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – John Sakkis

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Alastair Johnston | Zephyrus Image A Bibliography | Poltroon | 2003

George Oppen | The Collected Poems Of George Oppen | New Directions | 1976

David Brazil and Sara Larsen, eds. | Try Magazine | 2010

Micah Ballard and Patrick James Dunagan | Easy Eden | Push | 2009

Daniel Clowes | Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron | Fantagraphics | 1998

Gad Hollander | Walserian Waltzes | Avec | 1999

Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian | My Vocabulary Did This To Me The Collected Poetry Of Jack Spicer | Wesleyan | 2008

Sean Cliver | Disposable A History Of Skateboard Art | Warwick | 2005

Jason Morris | Spirits And Anchors | Auguste | 2010

Steve Lavoie and Pat Nolan | Life Of Crime Documents In The Guerrilla War Against Language Poetry | Poltroon | 2010

Rodney Koeneke | Rules For Drinking Forties | Cy Press | 2009

More John Sakkis here. His Attention Span for 2007, 2006, 2005. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Peter Quartermain

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Victor Coleman | Icon Tact: Poems 1984-2001 | Book Thug | 2006

Sardonic and sometimes savagely funny, other times just plain pissed-off; now and again tender, or screwball. Coleman, who reads widely, should be better known and warrants wide readership—and if the last three words make me sound like Elmer Fudd, well, Coleman would enjoy that.

George Deem | Let George Do It | Post-Apollo | 2009

Paintings and drawings; prose and verse. George Deem, who died in 2008, was a language artist, as well as a painter. As Ulla Dydo says in her introduction, this book “is not about painting, it is about writing.” A modest treasure. I’ve turned to it more than once, since I got it a few months back.

Lorne Dufour | Jacob’s Prayer | Caitlin | 2009

Simple prose is hard to write, and even harder to sustain. Dufour does it brilliantly, evoking the hardships of life in a British Columbia aboriginal village where he was schoolteacher, and the people who saved his life during and after a freak storm on hallowe’en in 1975. Sheer unpretentious good writing; generous, warm, loving—and political as Dickens.

George Economou | Ananios of Kleitor: Poems & Fragments and Their Reception from Antiquity to the Present | Shearsman | 2009

A wonderful romp through the petty, predatory and even campy squabbles and pedantry of certain scholars of Ancient Greek texts, at the same time funny and informative. Economou has a terrific parodic ear for the grave tones of scholarship, and an equally terrific poetic ear for the real delights of ancient Greek lyric. A tour de force.

Susan Holbrook and Thomas Dilworth, ed. | The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson: Composition as Conversation | Oxford | 2010

Long needed, superbly edited, indispensible.

Kevin Killian and David Brazil, ed. | The Kenning Anthology of Poet’s Theatre1945-1985 | 2010

Generous (so many plays! so many really good ones!). Eye-opening. Inspiring. Useful. A great read. Let’s hope for a follow-up volume.

Ammiel Alcalay, general editor | Lost And Found: The CUNY Poetics Documentary Initiative Series I | CUNY | 2009

Five issues, each with a different editor, issued in seven fascicles: selected correspondence of Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn; selected correspondence of Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara; Muriel Rukeyser on Darwin; selections from Philip Whalen’s Journals; Robert Creeley and Daphne Marlatt at the Vancouver Poetry Conference 1963. Series II, promised for Fall 2010, will include Muriel Rukeyser, Jack Spicer, and others. Need I say more?

Gérard de Nerval, trans. Richard Sieburth | The Salt Smugglers: History of the Abbé de Bucquoy | Archipelago | 2009

Nerval’s cheeky and indeed risky Tristram-Shandyish response to the crazy law in the Second French Republic (July 1850) which through exorbitant stamp-tax made impossible the publication of fiction in newspapers. Nerval’s quest, serialized in Le National, for the memoir of the man who actually escaped from the Bastille, which he once glimpsed on a bookstall but did not buy, has its occasional longueurs, but the whole thing is a nicely comic demolition of easy distinctions between fact and fiction. Not previously published in English, in excellent translation, with valuable introduction and relevant annotations.

Jacques Roubaud, trans. Jeff Fort | The Loop | Dalkey Archive | 2009

The second installment of The Great Fire of London, Roubaud’s highly resourceful and deeply moving Oulipean struggle with memory and loss; to read this is to skirt terrible despair, yet strangely enough to come out of it refreshed, strengthened.

José Saramago, trans. Margaret Jull Costa | Death With Interruptions | Houghton Mifflin | 2009

“The following day no one died” opens this story in which Death takes a vacation. Saramago’s gift here is a clear-sighted logic which exposes and ridicules (with hilarious ingenuity) the profound and absurd ineptitude of all expediency. The novel turns out to be a passionate defence and celebration of love and compassion—but to say that is to sound clichetic. If there is a cliché in the book, then it’s a fresh one.

More Peter Quartermain here. His Attention Span for 2008, 2006. Back to directory.