Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Posts Tagged ‘Mel Nichols

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 2010 – Brent Cunningham

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Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

The title of Nichols’s book, to my ear, indicates a kind of linguistic density that actually the poems inside don’t much have—instead you get poems of such emotional authority and seriousness of purpose that immediately I was ready to go anywhere with them. There’s lightness and levity as well, lots, but it’s in the refreshing context of feeling like the poet really, deeply knows what she’s doing, I mean really. Even the formal moves, the spacing, leaving phrases off in space, composition by field and the like, has a kind of rightness and intentionality to it that I don’t often accept so unquestionly. This is the kind of book I take around with me to remind me how to write as well as how to read. What else can I say? I know it came out last year and was mentioned often then, but I just love this book

Aaron Kunin | The Sore Throat & Other Poems | Fence | 2010

A lot of writers are influnced by philosophy, but Kunin is one of very few living poet I know where I feel like I’m reading someone with truly philosophical sensibilities and skills, i.e. who really lives in a Kantian or maybe in this case more a Spinozian reality. What his work shows, I think, is in part how much feeling there is in thinking, and also how much pleasure there is in the artistic distanciation of self-conciousness

Khaled Mattawa | Tocqueville | New Issues Poetry & Prose | 2010

I’m not entirely persuaded by all the elements of Mattawa’s work, but I like to mention him since I think he’s completely worthwhile yet almost completely off the radar of most self-identified experimental writers. This makes sense if you read his early, more conventional and overly-wringing writing, or if you look at those who blurb his books, etc., but this book is serious and thoughtful about its politics, courageous in its formal experimentation, and fervent in its contempt for false emotion. If you read one book blurbed by Yusef Komunyakaa this year, it should be this one, etc.

Brenda Iijima, ed. | eco language reader | Nightboat | 2010

To the properly sceptical this book probably won’t, and probably shouldn’t, prove there’s a new movement or even a new sensibility afoot, but whatever Iijima’s anthology is or isn’t claiming in those terms it is certainly very well edited, filled with a great group of contributors, and embarrasingly rich with new ideas and new passions.

Laura Moriarty | A Tonalist | Nightboat | 2010

I should perhaps recuse myself here since I’m one of Laura’s “A Tonalists,” but whether the pseudo-movement/anti-movement/non-movement of the title has any reality or not, Moriarty has used the idea of groups and groupings to make a fierce, delicate, layered text that stands as a work, and an art, of its own.

Douglas Rothschild | Theogony | Subpress | 2009

Rothschild has, basically, a classical sensibility (where “classical” is considered as running the gamut from the unadornedness of certain ancient greek writers to the unadornedness of Ted Berrigan), which is then shot through with a whole lot of eccentric, baroque intelligence. I may have been a little less taken with the long middle section about NYC than some: it’s what seem to be framed as the more “minor” poems that really have stayed with me. And in a way that makes perfect sense because the significance of the minor is what Rothschild himself is so productively interested in.

Tan Lin | Heath (Plagiarism/Outsource) | Zasterle | 2009

There’s something fascinating about limit cases, and Lin has been exploring those frontiers for a few books now, but this is the first time I really & completely got it. I like to carry around what I’ll call Heath (the title is a subject of debate by the way) just to show aspiring conceptualists how tepid and obvious their plans often are, by comparison. Really I can’t think of another book that seems to have gone farther off the grid of our presumptions about “the book” and “poetry” than this pleasantly transgressive text. It’s a further mystery that it remains, inexplicably, rather readable (with the right kind of approach). Everything in it—images, computer code, emails, texts—have the feeling of being placed, not overly systematically, but such that they beg for your own thinking to complete them.

Michael Cross, Thom Donovan, Kyle Schlesinger, eds. | ON: Contemporary Practice, Issue #2 | Cuneiform | 2010

Some will say the structure of this magazine, where poets talk about the work of poets, will only add to the feeling that experimental poetry is a small coterie with a secret knock to get in. Others, including me, find ON to be just what was lacking, and will find it far less about in-group backslapping than one might presume (very much like the Attention Span project, which has a lot in common with ON). Coterie is a sword of the two-edged variety, and ON is a much needed venue for poets to not only talk about works by their contemporaries but to fashion a renewed sense of basic, shared critical values.

Yedda Morrison | Girl Scout Nation | Displaced Press | 2008

This is the oldest book on my list but I only just got to read it. I had the pleasure of hearing a lot of the poems in this book for a few years at various readings, but the effect of reading them all together is fierce and splendid and at an entirely other level. Anger and love seem to be Morrison’s twin obsessions here and in other works—the love that both lies and lies in every anger, maybe. These concerns dovetail into her starkly eco/feminist/activist/understandably-pissed-off approach in ways that I find enviously original. She’s doing some great work and to me this book is both sweeping and, despite or because of the intensity, suprisingly personal.

Tyrone Williams | The Hero Project of the Century | The Backwaters Press | 2010

Unlike a decade ago Williams is not a secret anymore, but he’s still one of those poets I always read no matter what. I’d say I liked this book just a sliver less than On Spec, but it’s still terrific. Compared to On Spec it’s driven a bit more by content than form, but regardless TW is always, to me, most compelling in the way he works with linguistic density, counterpunctuating it with sudden moments of simple anger and direct content. I never thought enjambed aesthetic complexity could come across as so persuasive and natural, but it is here.

More Brent Cunningham here. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Nada Gordon

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Stan Apps | Universal Stories with Unknown Particulars | valeveil e-book | 2009

A work of conscience and searching thought: What does poetry do in the world? What does it do for us?

Lynn Berhrendt | petals, emblems | Lunar Chandelier | forthcoming 2010

My blurb: “The affect-drenched poems in Lynn Behrendt’s Petals/Emblems leap off beauty’s edge right on to the electrified grid of being: that difficult ‘barrage/ of having been born/ at all.’ There (here) everything’s objective correlative: love and pain ‘crave form like alms’ and surely find it, sensuous, phonic, and unsettling, ‘heavy’ with ‘gyn grief’ and ‘undaunted desire.’ ‘This ache to tell you something’ shoots the poems through with yearny rhetorical force like the ‘inward arch’ of ‘nostalgic ocean’: palpable, fluid, engulfing.”

Charles Bernstein | All the Whiskey in Heaven | Farrar | 2010

Do I even need to say why?

Brandon Brown | The Orgy | self-published | 2010

I wrote on Ululations that this book “… spreads a metaphorical net onto the orgy of late capitalism in the hyper-information age (‘this crystal mall must be destroyed’); and most compellingly, to me, it seems to refer back on itself to the orgy of writing that makes itself felt in every moment of this galvanized, kind of emo (in the best possible sense: ‘My heart struggles./ It’s big as a chard, but it never learns.’) poem.”

K. Lorraine Graham | Terminal Humming | Edge | 2009

I blurbed this one, too. [All “this shining and this _utter [!].” Terminal Humming is a very exciting book and I love it. Eavesdropping and borrowing from diverse discourses, K. Lorraine Graham has created a complex “essay on scrounging.” It is a wonderfully violent “attempt to unleash inner badness” in poems that are hot and audacious, in a girly way: “Wonder Woman boots twirl twirl.” Terminal Humming is just the right amount of weird. In it, “kinks become beautiful and obvious,” and “language [hums] as angry form.” Read this “downwind chess urine bird bathing extravaganza” of a book!]

Michael Gottlieb | Memoir and Essay | Faux | 2010

A moving, witty, precise and somewhat theatricalized bildungsroman. How he got this way.

Carla Harryman | Adorno’s Noise | Essay | 2008

Like psychedelics for the intellect.

Rodney Koeneke | Etruria | manuscript

Exquisite. Someone please publish this. This is poetry exuding the most poignant possible elegance.

K. Silem Mohammad | Sonnagrams 1-20 | Slack Buddha | 2010

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING upon reading these poems. Seriously. Kasey is my idol.

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Mindbogglingly delicate and audacious, all at once.

Lanny Quarles | chapbooks

He sent us an envelope of chapbooks which I loved. Gary squirreled them away somewhere so I can’t check titles. Endlessly inventive!

Ariana Reines |The Cow | Fence | 2006

I know I’m late to this one, but wow, The Cow. She packs a punch.

Monica de le Torre | Public Domain | Roof | 2008

It’s conceptual! It’s funny! It’s whip-smart! It’s art!

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

All the outspilling radiance of life and death here, like a pop Proust or a more-beatific-than Kerouac Kerouac.

PLUS: live computer-facilitated performances of Danny Snelson (“Mabuse”) and Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford (“The Ballad of the Death of Spring”) Why limit ourselves to the page? This is a future of poetry.

More Nada Gordon here. Her Attention Span for 2005. 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 – Benjamin Friedlander

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Ludovico Ariosto, trans. Barbara Reynolds | Orlando Furioso, Parts One and Two | Penguin | 1975 and 1977

Lit up by rare flashes of gunfire, a hundred characters fly every which way in the twilight of the middle ages, in stories as ragged as the back of a tapestry. It’s ridiculous fun—The Faerie Queene as told by Rabelais—made perfect for bedtime by the rhymed translation, which aims to be as rubbery as Don Juan. Making me wish Byron had been born in the Renaissance.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Harold Bloom and Paul Kane | Collected Poems and Translations | Library of America | 1994

What finally won me over is the pulse of composition: an engendering rhythm urged forward by rhyme, lifting the flower out of its seed, delivering into consciousness what gets delivered into script. No other poet of the nineteenth century gives me the same sense of scribble as bioproduct. To be sure, the poems I like best are much more than that, but it’s the bioproduction that defines the overall experience, a fitting expression of Emerson’s commitment to nature.

Flarf and Conceptual Poetry | various websites and presses | 2008-2009

Perhaps the one indisputable achievement of conceptual poetry is its radicalizing of the old truism that being is inferior to becoming, that one should prize thoughts less highly than thinking. In works like Kenneth Goldsmith’s Fidget (a list of every body movement made over thirteen hours), it’s the completeness with which the initial inspiration is carried out that matters, not the result. The heft of the book matters more than anything said in it. Even a project as magnificently crafted as Christian Bok’s Eunoia (a set of lipograms, each highlighting a different vowel) is of little interest in what it says; what we admire, finally, is the fact that anything gets said at all. The being of such projects is not simply inferior to becoming; it makes us yearn for a dissipation of being, for a conceptual project that would free us from the burdens of consumption altogether; a project that could marshal all the obsessiveness of Fidget, all the ingenuity of Eunoia, but in pursuit of nothing tangible…of nothing at all. Wait. I think I just discovered the death drive.

Flarf is the opposite. It cares not a whit for becoming, though it responds to change, and reproduces. Like an amoeba, growing and splitting, splitting and growing. Except that flarf is hardly single-celled. It’s a whole culture, decaying matter newly charged with life, responding to stimulus. In flarf, any stray word or phrase can become an organ of feeling, obeying the pleasure principle, luxuriating in its being. Which is why consciousness ripples through it so confusingly: with consciousness comes intention, reflection, concern for becoming. Ripples, however, are unavoidable: consciousness, or its influence, is irrepressible, except through the rigorous application of a method. Which is really a conceptual thing.

Rob Halpern | Disaster Suites | Palm | 2009

In which the lyric I is a materialist project and language the flood setting the wreckage adrift. Flood, however, is not the disaster, only its means of becoming manifest. Transcendance? A survey of the wreckage from above.

Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Asahta | 2009

Pleasure and disgust are modes of understanding. Humor, a pedagogy that relies on them. Which is why Rachel Loden’s history is so effective. Its lesson? A reawakening of sensation. Call it proprioception, but of the mind.

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Flickers of happiness like red lights from tapped brakes, driving into northern Virginia, immersed in music and the passing view. It all made so much sense when I learned that Mel Nichols used to live on the same road toward which I careened nearly every day. A historic city split open by highways, bandaged with strip malls, unexpectedly hospitable to foreign substances. “I kiss you city // and melt into your dangerous tongue.” Or drip into you, as through a feeding tube. However evoked, a very particular experience of place. Which these poems reproduce, in calming flashes.

Kit Robinson | The Messianic Trees: Selected Poems 1976-2003 | Adventures in Poetry | 2008

If craft, poetics, and experience form a triangle, the area they enclose is ruled by artifice. And no poet has succumbed to that rule as winningly or knowingly as Robinson, who appreciates with cheerful horror the larger mandate: to remake the world in our own image.

Susan Schultz | Dementia Blog | Singing Horse | 2008

Family and caretakers, bent by love or duty toward the ultimate abjection: cognition after twilight. According to Susan Schultz, all of us are likewise bent relative to authority, making this six-month report essential reading.

Jonathan Skinner | With Naked Foot | Little Scratch Pad | 2009

It’s waaaay better than slow poetry. It’s Skinner! (With apologies to Wendy’s.)

Peter Weiss | Auschwitz auf der Bühne: “Die Ermittlung” in Ost und West [Auschwitz on Stage: “The Investigation” East and West] | Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung | 2008 | DVD and DVD-ROM

Like Charles Reznikoff’s Holocaust, The Investigation is based on trial transcripts. In this case, the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of 1963-65, which Weiss briefly attended, breaking away from the rehearsals of Marat/Sade to hear the testimony of the victims and perpetrators. Subtitled “an oratorio in eleven cantos,” the resulting text is an exhumation of the past, not a reconstruction of the trial; it moves didactically from ramp to camp to gas chamber and ovens. Overshadowed now by other exhumations, most notably the film Shoah, Weiss’s play deserves to be remembered. On October 19, 1965, it was performed simultaneously in fifteen German cities, including both parts of Berlin, no small feat in the Cold War. Coming twenty years after Hitler’s defeat, and twenty years before the West German president pronounced that defeat a liberation, the performances marked a turning point in Germany’s coming to terms with its National Socialist past. Really, one of the great moments in political art ever, documented on these DVDs.

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

The skills needed to read a poem are specialized enough that acquiring them was at one time what people meant by acquiring an education. In the twentieth century, the old skills became curiously inapt; what was needed instead was a reeducation. The modernists approached this problem with a ruler-to-knuckles kind of fanaticism. With Philip Whalen, we arrive at the public schools of my childhood: the ruler is used to make straight lines, and there are penmanship classes, and sleepy moments in the afternoon when we study ancient dynasties. And recess, and lunch, and doodles, and the joy of the bell, and dispersal home.

More Benjamin Friedlander here.

Attention Span 2009 – CE Putnam

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Peter Cully | The Age of Briggs & Stratton | New Star Books | 2008

Another set of walks around Hammertown with Mr. Cully. Nature and machine in conflict and decay & Smithsonian bird found-poems from 1910-1954.

& even when they make it over the line

the berm is not permanent

and the fuckraking leafblowers

papercut the air into orange froth.

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge Books | 2009

Fragmented lyric float bubbles: Day Poems. Step carefully.

“do the fish know they are not drowning but in dream photograph with dense knowing”

Takashi Hiraide, trans. Sawako Nakayasu | For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut | New Directions | 2008

111 prose poems (many in a commuter/subway context). I love living in its strange beautiful world. I couldn’t help but think of Yoshida Kenko’s “Essays in Idleness.”

“The soap that transforms in the hand of silence into a living thing. The railway where the claw marks of those approaching death lather fragrantly upon our skin”

Ruth S. Freed & Stanley A. Freed | Ghosts: Life and Death in North India | Anthropological Paper of The American Museum of Natural History | 1993

This anthropological study utilizes an unusual method for naming project informants, resulting in lines like:

“Curmudgeon, who, like all men in the village was much concerned about the perpetuation of the male line of descent, blamed the death of Little Boy on his levirate spouse, Scapegoat.”

Carlos Reygada, dir. | Stellet licht | Mantarraya Producciones | 2007

A big screen is a must for this one. I had the chance to see it at the NW Film Forum earlier this year. This film tells the story of a love-triangle in a secluded Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico. The film is gorgeous to look at and it moves at a very very slow & quiet pace (watching a sunrise/sunset speed), but it builds and builds and storms. The lack of a musical soundtrack & great sound editing/effects (crunching snow, an unnerving ticking of a kitchen clock, etc.) add tension / agitation. Unforgettable ending. Dialogue in German and Spanish w/ English Subtitles.

Endless Boogie | Focus Level | No Quarter Records | 2008

I STILL can’t stop listening to these NYC 50-somethings as they punch me out with “Safe as Milk” era Captain Beefheart vocals (a low-key growllllllly mumble rather than annoying) riding atop an “endless boogie” of psychedelic blues jams. Tough, rough and raw. Fire up the grill. We are “Smoking Figs In The Yard.”

Joshua Beckman | Take It | Wave Books | 2009

Starts like this:

Dear Angry Mob,

Oak Wood Trail is closed to you. We

feel it unnecessary to defend our position,

for we have always thought of ourselves

(and rightly, I venture) as a haven for

those seeking a quiet and solitary

contemplation. We are truly sorry

for the inconvenience.

Signed,

Ranger Lil

Portable Shrines Shows | Seattle, WA | Various Locations (Funhouse/Comet Tavern)

Portable Shrines is a new “psychedelic music” collective that has just started putting on shows and experimental sound events in the Seattle Area. It’s a homegrown thing, sheets on the walls for projections, etc. (really enjoyed “Yoko Ono’s Fly flim during the Oko Yono set the other week—and Treetarantula and AFCGT were pretty good too). Anyway, haven’t been as excited about a Seattle scene since pre-Nevermind Nirvana. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Aram Saroyan | Complete Minimal Poems | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2007

“typewriter kittens”

Kenneth Patchen | Hallelujah Anyway | New Directions | 1966

Maybe it’s the effect of living with a two-year-old, but I’m especially enjoying the curly words and crazy critters in these “picture poems.” A nice old edition. The kind that you can still find (sometimes) in U-District used bookshops.

A Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies: Primary Access to Observations of UFOs, Ghosts, and Other Mysterious Phenomena Compiled by George M. Eberhart | Greenwood Press | 1980

My selection for reference book of the year (1980). Organized by geographic regions of North America it documents over 22,000 separate events in 10,500 geographic locations with a Subject AND an Observer Index.

Erratic Starfish, 261

Moving lamp fixture, 611

Mystery balls of fiber, 34

Phantom cabin, 574

Pink squirrel, 839

Water forecasting rock, 498

Weeping mounted deer’s head, 497, 865

More CE Putnam here.

Attention Span 2009 – Chris Hosea

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

Robertson’s books punk baroque mythologies, riff on errant possibilities, tickle traditions. Debbie: An Epic, or The Weather, or The Men, is each a world, a project. This volume gathers shorter poems that are just as ravishing. The back cover shouts in big silver capitals: “MY FIDELITY IS MY OWN DISASTER.” If you read this book in public, you may get curious looks, as I did on the F train. The lyrics are long on capital-R Romance. Each time you ride in the Soul Whip, turn up the stereo, roll down the windows and see stars shining even in hellish places. “Utopia is so emotional. / Then we get used to it.” Blues music Coleridge would download if he could.

Roberto Bolaño | 2666 | Farrar Straus | 2008

Bolaño’s epic, in a symphonic translation by Natasha Wimmer, resists any attempt at summary in the same way that it humanely mocks totalizing interpretations. 2666 inhabits the narrative space Homer’s swineherd summoned when he told Odysseus, “The nights are endless now.”

Hadley Haden Guest, ed. | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan | 2008
Barbara Guest | Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing | Kelsey Street | 2003

Guest’s essays, which lay out her conception of imagination as elusive and visionary (“obscure light…the mysterious side of thought”), helped me begin to unlock the Wesleyan collected and see how Guest’s poems collage images. Her poems rarely argue or lead. They provide beautifully designed spaces for thought, to be returned to in all seasons.

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Nichols leaps the gap between one non sequitur and the next with all the grace of Buster Keaton. I guess I was thinking of the news when something musical came from the hard drive, and we were working days again.

Stuart Bailey, ed. | DOT DOT DOT 17 | 2008

Will Holder’s lecture on “the poetics of CONCRETE POETRY and documenting the work of FALKE PISANO” is transcribed and lineated, and though it doesn’t purport to be a poem, strikes me as the most genuinely new work in the genre I’ve read this year. Holder, with this patchwork of citations about concrete poetry (including examples of the form and quotations from his own critical writings), genially takes poetry about poetry to a deadpan reductio ad absurdum. Not for the faint of heart.

Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocte | 2008

Reading Young’s book feels like being admitted to someone else’s daydream. Or getting lost in a Jonas Mekas movie, only digital. A gorgeous sprawl.

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Moxley’s narratives take craft to the limit without losing the easygoing lilt that makes this book such a pleasure. This is poetry as remarkable for its intellectual scope as its generous attempts to imagine and recreate the first person plural in a boldly imaginative variety of guises.

Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck, eds. | The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940 | Cambridge | 2009

The bulk of this selection of letters, including drafts of poems, is addressed to Beckett’s friend Thomas McGreevy, fellow acolyte of Joyce, poet and critic. How amazing to see Beckett’s perspective and humor change and sharpen with the years! He sets himself questions he will attempt forever, such as, “Am I to set my teeth & be disinterested? […] Is one to insist on a crucifixion for which there is no demand?”

Renee Gladman | To After That (Toaf) | Atelos | 2008

In this critical memoir of the process of thinking about writing a novel, Gladman invents a new architectural period of nostalgia and ambition.

Paolo Virno | Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation | Semiotext(e) | 2008

Jokes make a revolution in the workplace. “The joke is a public action that can be accomplished solely by means of words.” File under philosophy.

Chris Hosea is co-editor, with Cecily Iddings, of The Blue Letter.