Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Posts Tagged ‘Norma Cole

Attention Span 2011 | Sawako Nakayasu

leave a comment »

Juliana Leslie | More Radiant Signal | Letter Machine | 2010

The poems feel diaphanous, and like they wouldn’t fare too well in a bar fight, except for the fact that we are all thrown off our stools by a strange and beautiful light that disappears when you turn away, or does it.

Don Mee Choi | The Morning News Is Exciting | Action | 2010

There is so much I love here. If this is postcolonial literature I want to write postcolonial literature too, though I can’t, being Japanese and/or American.

Zachary Schomburg | The Man Suit | Black Ocean | 2007
Zachary Schomburg | Scary, No Scary | Black Ocean | 2009

Love is when a boat is half-buried by all the cobwebs of eyelashes in the ocean.

Kiwao Nomura, trans. Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander | Spectacle & Pigsty | Omnidawn | 2011
Hiromi Ito, trans. Jeffrey Angles | Killing Kanoko | Action | 2009

Nomura’s poems are just as hypnotizing as they are in the original Japanese–darkly gorgeous and radiant, as the ‘orgasm-monger plods past/ nerve ants plod past.’ Norma Cole in her book of essays compares the expansiveness of theater-making to that of her experiences with group translation, and I think she is onto something there–perhaps the future is in collaborative translation.

One of the first things I heard about Hiromi Ito was that Japanese women in the 80s were trembling in the closet reading her work with a flashlight. Some have chalked up her work to an aesthetics of the shocking (as in, Kanoko is the name of her own daughter), but it’s been a very important part of Japanese feminist poetry these last few decades.

Frances Chung | Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple | Wesleyan | 2000

Chinatown is a place to go eat chinks. It’d be kind of silly to label this work something like the Chinese-American New York School, but I just did and yet it’s much more than that–in fact the last thing I want to do is to wrap it up under some Chinese-American bubble because it cuts across these lines, similar-different to Teresa Hak Kyung Cha. Walter Lew sent it to me this summer when I was bugging him about Yi Sang. Thank you, Walter. Thank you, Frances. I have always loved the color celadon, but now joining it on the palette is duck shit green. 

Norma Cole | To Be at Music: Essays & Talks | Omnidawn | 2010

A guided tour of Norma Cole’s readings, thinking, and practice…including some excellent writings on translation, Mina Loy, and color. Now the heartbreak of the rational.

Lily Hoang | The Evolutionary Revolution | Les Figues | 2010

Their bodies begin as uncooked noodles, stiff and starchy, but as their heads wander, they limpen, soften, become saturated with dream.

Miryam Sas | Fault Lines: cultural memory and Japanese surrealism | Stanford | 1999

It’s true that I’m working on a Japanese Modernism project right now, but as I go back into this book, I am finding that it offers a conversation about more than just that particular time and place–examples of how to think about cultural transactions, or write about writing, or consider Surrealism inside and outside of its original and secondary contexts.

Marisol Limon Martinez | After you, dearest language | Ugly Duckling | 2005

This analogue version of hypertext is a wonderful way to house a narrative, and makes me think about more analog-digital potentials in poetry. (I also recently realized that I am married to a technophile-technophobe.)

§

More Sawako Nakayasu here.

Nakayasu’s Attention Span for 2009, 2008. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Benjamin Friedlander

leave a comment »

Rose Ausländer | Gesamtwerk in Einzelbänden | 16 vols. | Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag | 1992-1995

My German, never good to begin with, has been slipping away from lack of use, and I’ve no longer got my father to call for help when the grammar tricks me up—a stroke took away all his answers. A month before the stroke he and I were in Berlin and I bought a few of these volumes; I’ve acquired the others since, reading aloud at the nursing home, where my father’s silence becomes part of the effect. It’s the late work in particular that moves me, written after Ausländer turned seventy: a metaphysical imagism, fluid as Matisse’s cutouts, cutting as a northern wind, though at whisper strength. Or seemingly at whisper strength: the late work fills nine of these volumes.

Bureau of American Ethnology | Annual Reports and Bulletins | Government Printing Office | 1879-1967

Of the 200 bulletins and 48 annual reports with papers, only a few contain material that one might call literary, but these are precious: a treasury of Native American texts in the original languages, with dictionaries and translations. It’s incredible that these are available online, and incredible to scroll through them, if a little bewildering—they encompass a wide range of philosophies and projects, and their credibility is uneven. Racism is pervasive, so suspicion is required, but it’s hard not to get excited by the material: a ghost story in which a bird puts adult skulls on child bodies, which topple over; a song with the refrain, “the entire world weeps for me”; a prayer to the sun that includes the unexpected hope, “Perhaps if we are lucky / … / A floor of ice will spread over the world, / the forests …  / … will break beneath the weight of snow.” The highlight for me is The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890, published only a few years after the events described, containing a number of the songs that accompanied the dance. (The translator, James Mooney, reports that they were composed in a trance, one after the other, 20 or 30 at a time). Just as interesting, and more influential as poetry: Frances Densmore’s various collections of Indian song, widely read by the moderns—just this week I found a citation by Basil Bunting.

List of BAE publications
Annual Reports
Bulletins 1-24
Bulletins 25-200

Norma Cole | To Be at Music: Essays & Talks | Omnidawn | 2010

Argument by citation, juxtaposition, repurposing—a Talmudic strategy, though based on a very different principle. Not the authority of a sacred text, but a library where authority is dispersed—where the sacred, like the untranslatable, is yet to be grasped. Making this a musical book in Cole’s sense (formulated for Robert Browning): “In the time of imagination, prosody becomes the reference system, the set of locating coordinates.”

Ann Cotten & Kerstin Cmelka | I, Coleoptile | Broken Dimanche P | 2010

Consulting a dictionary every other word impedes the reading of some poets more than others, and Cotten, alas, is one for whom speed matters. This is ironic, since her Fremdwörterbuchsonette (Suhrkamp, 2007) includes the word “dictionary” in its title. A dictionary of loan words, for Cotten—American—has borrowed her German, while incorporating an English borrowed for her readers. Wit is required to keep up, and I’m just too slow in German. Probably, I’m too slow for this English text as well—a prose-poetry hybrid with photographs—but here at least I can pretend to understand. And pretending is precisely the point. The photos (by Cmelka) reproduce stills from a film starring Mayakovsky, with Cotten in Mayakovsky’s role, while the narrative is given under the sign of a disguise: the “coleoptile” is a vegetable sheath, the covering of a shoot, hence a figure for becoming. “I am a woman as yet / in a cocoon. I am embarrassed / that one has caught me as I unfold / my first wing, still in the ‘real,-’ bag.” In context, “real” suggests “reel,” just as shoot invokes photography, so it’s fair to surmise that the metamorphosis unfolds in the manner of a film, the projection of something already been (or “bean,” as the opening discourse punningly puts it). Like a loan word transposed into poetry, it slips by too fast to be savored—or is savored at narrative’s expense.

Stephen Crane, ed. Christopher Benfey | Complete Poems | American Poets Project | 2011

In his introduction, Benfey notes that Crane’s most individual qualities have long been ignored, even by sympathetic readers: they admire his starkness of language and modernity of line, but not the compressed, parable-like narratives these serve. Yet the time may have come for reassessment: aligning Crane with a certain vein of writing from the seventies, Benfey sees a ground prepared by the influx of poetry from Eastern Europe, and by the impact of deep image. This made me think a more contemporary ground might lie with the writers of Action Books. Though Crane lacks the grotesqueries they admire, he flirts with kitsch. His angels scoffing at churchgoers, man chasing horizon, split the difference between American Renaissance allegory and New Yorker cartoon; and it’s not surprising to learn that his original publisher, Fred Holland Day, was a mentor of Khalil Ghibran. All that aside—or rather, not aside—Crane’s work is fun to read. It’s nice to have this compact edition.

Donato Mancini | Buffet World | New Star | 2011

A pringle can probably tell us more about our world than a potato: ersatz, weighed down by packaging, more pleasurable than sustaining, the lowly chip—like its lowly consumer—is the material form of a relation (economic, ecological) that stitches reality. These wonderful poems tug at those stitches, making reality dance wonkily, like a puppet show. Fun facts, childish play, damning critique: Capitalism, you are what you eat.

Thomas Mann, trans. John E. Woods | Doctor Faustus | Vintage International | 1999

From the Mann-Adorno correspondence I learn that portions were taken verbatim from source texts—a precedent (yet another) for our contemporary practice. I feel especially close to Mann’s version: plundering one milieu to recreate another, he historicizes the avant-garde while making it the vehicle for a counter-history. In conceptual writing, however, a concept is nothing without execution. Here, as it should be, the devil is in the details.

I poeti della scuola siciliana | Vol. 1: Giacomo da Lentini | Vol. 2: Poeti della corte di Federico II | Vol. 3:  Poeti siculo-toscani | Ed. Roberto Antonelli (vol. 1), Costanzo Di Girolamo (vol. 2), and Rosario Coluccia (vol. 3) | Mondadori | 2008

It’s silly to list these long-coveted volumes when I’ve only managed to make my way through a half dozen poems (under Carla’s tutelage, of course), but because they’ve already sent me on a fruitful detour through Rosetti, I feel, if not justified, then at least honest: my attention is directed where it takes new inspiration, though it can’t go forward on its own.

Laura Riding | Omitted Poems and Superseded Versions, 1927-1938

I spent a fair portion of the year tracking down fugitive publications and original editions by A. R. Ammons, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Laura Riding, with gains in each case. The biggest surprise came with Riding, whose bibliography contains perhaps a hundred pages of uncollected poetry and a wealth of material for a variorum, a companion to First Awakenings (the uncollected work through 1926) and Collected Poems (Riding’s “self-determining canon”). What lies beyond, in the archive, I can’t say, but the unpublished writing strikes me as a separate issue. It’s the successive stages of Riding’s public presentation that interests me—a story well worth preserving.

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

It feels good to be in synch with a friend: little did I know when I took up The Ghost Dance Religion that Andrew was already studying one of its principal languages, Arapaho, an Algonkian tongue that flourished where he now lives. The aim: “to get closer to plant, animal, rock, weather, or hydrological cycles, by way of the Native words that held them.” The resulting work has an objectivist compression, which, despite the economy, finds space for all that the eye can see, or ear hear, all that deepens a day. Living up to the demands of Arapaho as expressed in his book’s epigraph, from Edward Sapir: “Single Algonkian words are like tiny Imagist poems.”

Elisabeth Workman | Maybe Malibu Maybe Beowulf | Dusie Kollectiv | 2011

Through experiments on a rodent (namely myself), I can say that these poems all hit the goody place, the pleasure center of the brain, which laps up the lines like so many pulses: “pink tufa dust / of the Golden Girls,” “Caucasian dawgs,” “a probe, a hole, a ‘Burger King,’” “SpongeBob / ejaculates brief histories of time.” All meaningless, of course, but perfectly directed, electric.

*

Beyond these, let me cite without comment two books I blurbed this year: Stan Apps, The World as Phone Bill (Combo Books, 2011), and G. P. Lainsbury, Versions of North (Caitlin Press, forthcoming). Also, two broadsides that gave me great pleasure: Tim Atkins, Pet Soundz (Crater Press, 2011), and Rodney Koeneke, At the Small Bar in the Embassy (Cuneiform Press, 2011).

§

More Benjamin Friedlander here.

Friedlander’s Attention Span for 20102009200820072006200520042003. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Peter Quartermain

leave a comment »

Robert Duncan , ed. Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman | The HD Book | California | 2011

At last! Even if you don’t like Duncan (and quite a few don’t), this is still not to be ignored. Its publication a major event of the year.

Tony Judt | Ill Fares the Land | Penguin | 2010

I lament his death, he’s irreplaceable. Not to heed his work, these essays, would be sheer folly.

Norma Cole | To Be At Music: Essays & Talks | Omnidawn | 2010

Brilliant, pithy, full of news.

George Bowering | My Darling Nelly Gray | Talonbooks | 2010

Bowering in top form.

Robert Pogue Harrison | The Body of Beatrice | Hopkins | 1988

An oldie but goodie, still opening doors.

Meredith Quartermain,  drawings by Susan Bee | Recipes From the Red Planet | Book Thug | 2010

I’m not exactly impartial here, but hey, this is really a very interesting and indeed good book. The publisher calls it fiction; it’s more like poetry to me, and resourceful.

Lissa Wolsak | Squeezed Light: Collected Poems 1994-2005 | Station Hill | 2010

Dense, difficult, bracing—can I say these wide-ranging poems are obsessed with words? They’re sure instructive to anyone who cares about them, and really are exhilarating in their astonished thought.

Guy Birchard | Further Than The Blood | Pressed Wafer | 2010

This is Birchard’s sixth or maybe seventh book of poetry, but nobody seems to have noticed. Maybe his poems are too subtle and careful, perhaps the mode at casual glance too familiar, the skill too unobtrusive.

Michael Boughn | Cosmographia: A Post-Lucretian Micro-Epic | Book Thug | 2010

Issued in fascicles over the last few years, and at last collected together. Boughn is a terrific poet, who actually thinks as he writes. He can be very funny; sometimes he’s very angry. He’s always without fail interesting, so long as you’re paying attention.

Stéphane Mallarmé, trans. Barbara Johnson | Divagations: The Author’s 1897 Arrangement | Belknap / Harvard | 2007

Delighted to find this still in print.

§

Peter Quartermain has just (July 2011) submitted “Poetic Fact,” a collection of his essays, to an interested publisher. His edition of Robert Duncan’s Collected Early and Collected Later Poems and Plays is currently at the U of California P. The introduction to the first volume appeared in The Capilano Review, Fall 2009.

Quartermain’s Attention Span for 201020082006. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Eric Baus

leave a comment »

Fred Moten | B Jenkins | Duke | 2010

“come from some of everywhere, somewhere so deep that some of everywhere come with you. to become for our occult belongings, // worldly in that other way”

Dorothea Lasky | Black Life | Wave | 2010

“You are reading the work of a great poet, possibly one of the greatest ones of your time. If I am standing in from of you right now, you are listening to the voice of one of the greatest poets of your time.”

Bhanu Kapil | Humanimal: A Project For Future Children | Kelsey St. | 2009

“I am not interested in animals. Return to the work as memory. Say it is a wolf becoming a girl, the action in reverse.”

Tan Lin | Seven Controlled Vocabularies | Wesleyan | 2010

“People are basically animals that know how to read.”

Steven Zultanski | Pad | Book Thug | 2010

“My dick cannot lift the walls. My dick cannot lift the ceiling. My dick cannot lift the floor.”

Will Alexander | The Sri Lankan Loxodrome | New Directions | 2010

“such swans / staggered by microbial reasoning / their aggressive nests / anatomical with anomaly”

Paul Killebrew | Flowers | Canarium | 2010

“It’s better than Atlanta, where they treat people like cars / in a city that combines the rustic elegance of Newark / with the quiet dignity of a beer bong.”

Edouard Glissant, trans. Nathalie Stephens | Poetic Intention | Nightboat | 2010

“When the poet travels to the ends where there is no country, he opens with the more deserved relation, in that space of an absolute elsewhere in which each can attempt to reach him.”

Lisa Robertson | R’s Boat | California | 2010

“Say I’m a beautiful animal who has mastered laziness / In reddened clearing in the occidental forest / In the album / Purse of goddess clicking / I long to see how it will continue to behave”

Norma Cole | Where Shadows Will | City Lights | 2009

“Here the subject thinks ‘there could be flowers’ or ‘the water was a bit disturbed when the ring fell in.’ All that, painted from said things, pleases it.”

More Eric Baus here. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Patrick Pritchett

leave a comment »

Julie Carr | Sarah—Of Fragments and Lines | Coffee House

Beyond beautiful—a hymn of sorrow and joy and Carr’s most intimate and powerful work yet—deeply touching, and miraculously alive in its invention.

James Belflower | Commuter | Instance

The severe angularity and audacity of postmodernity. Now, would somebody please publish “Friends of Mies van der Rohe” already?

Norma Cole | Where Shadows Will | City Lights

Norma Cole’s work is continually alert to the tiniest nuances and to the possibility for the vastness of inside that moment. The actual turns of thought, a deep thinking into language as event and the world as it seen and felt and registered continually. Objects are not merely named, but multiply-mediated. What calls our attention is seeing: and seeing into and through language. The poem never a comment, but an invitation to become enmeshed with its event; neither reductive nor overpowering, but alive to complexity.

Anne Carson | NOX | New Directions

Elegy as etymology, as colportage. But is the whole less than the sum of its scattered parts?

Ingeborg Bachman, trans. Peter Filkins | Songs in Flight | Marsilio

So I gather the salt
when the sea overcomes us,
and turn back
and lay it on the threshold
and step into the house.

We share bread with the rain;
bread, debt, and a house.

Leslie Scalapino | Considering How Exaggerated Music Is | North Point

What would you glean
mean

the long go-away-from-it plan
at hazard, sheer glass over
water

and the eking out
of syllables

ten cents-a-dozen
no rhymes

///

It would be occasion, return of the others from their something not right
I know, I could see them, moving down the aisle, that there should be
this music

This was the time when the dying brought in their wounded

///

The stippled
branch
of light
tips forward

ghosted
with pollen

and the promises of dust
stare back at us

give evidence of our having lived
the wrong questions
right

Ken Irby | The Intent On | North Atlantic

And for the dreaming, the endless
mode of occurring
as it is, as it could be, as the sleepers
keep murmuring —

for what it means
to stay alive, attuned, a moment
to this otherwise
& the sought-for, disappearing.

Of pure possibility/of the nothing
that may save it
shed of symbol, it staves off
the blighted, and so we go – into night

the blessed, the earthly
what leaks into & wrecks us
is always
never and more singular than loss

across song’s fields, folded. Inside its portals
the old book beckons and we bend
surmised of sorrow, to its rising, it turning.
What dies &

what inherits? What dissipates
and what is remnant?
If the wind is not/if the wind is here and –
its inconstancy, its minglings, its slips of

substance into light and
into beginning
for beginning is always.
Begin again
.

More Patrick Pritchett here and here. His Attention Span for 2009, 2008. Back to directory.

Written by Steve Evans

September 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Attention Span 2009 – Kevin Killian

with 2 comments

David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm Press | 2009

David Buuck’s first book is relatively slim—well it’s normal size, not one of the 110 page behemoths that pass as regulation fare nowadays—but it is exquisitely focused and honed in on the torment of being alive in the world we live in, a citizen of the evil state of America. And a vulnerable human cell heavily implicated in capitalism. As a summary of the different formal experiments Buuck has tried out in the past ten years this book is marvelously effective, for he is the most impatient of poets and the one most disgusted with his own efforts. “Stanzas in Mediation 15-20” (“The Suck”) is my favorite of these dramatizations of self loathing. “Sure–I am/ a poet—against/ the war & a poet/ against “poets”/ “against the war” & I’m a poet against the post-/ war & well/ I’m not really/ much of a poet/ either, but & yet/ I’m just trying to do my part/ by Iraqifying/ my CD collection ]…]”–it just goes on like this taking strips of his flesh with it. When I first met him his Hamlet nature fascinated me, his mercurial balance of air and water, and now years later he steps forth, a Hamlet with balls.

Garrett Caples | Complications | Meritage Press | 2007

Garrett’s my editor—at City Lights, where we will publish my new book Impossible Princess in the fall—so by rights I should leave him off this list, but if I couldn’t write about my friends’ books my list would be tiny indeed, and Steve Evans, if you enforced that rule on “Attention Span” then you could show all the books reviewed on one screen. As I cast my gaze on the books I’m writing about this time around I see to my shame that indeed they are practically all by my friends, except for one girl whom I have never met, and one guy whom I only met once and yet was captivated by his dark intense Nijinsky grace. Does that count? Garrett Caples wrote Complications during a time of worldwide grief and mourning, and during a time when the culture figures he admired were too slipping away, as though they knew—and the elegiac factor in Complications is high. Thom Gunn, Barbara Guest, Robert Creeley, Philip Lamantia, all ghosts now, are invoked without sentiment and with plenty of wry humor. Caples’ experiments with sound and the slipping image are well known, and here they really get a workout: those of you who have read “Dub Song of Prufrock Shakur” know what I’m talking about. And there are also lovely straight essays here (if I could apply for a second the dubious adjective straight to this writing) which I always enjoy in a book of poetry.

Norma Cole | Natural Light | Libellum Press | 2009

Norma also has a new book from City Lights, a book of selected poems called Where Shadows Will, 1988-2008, which makes my mouth gape, as though to remember that I met her before she had written any books and was just starting to publish after a career as a painter. Well, I don’t have the space here to do more than recommend this one wholeheartedly— though I wonder why there’s nothing in Where Shadows Will from Norma’s greatest work, the epic verse drama Art Colony Survivor (2002), the play I wrote with her over months and months of laughter and tears? In the meantime I have thought often about another new book by her, Natural Light. Cole strikes out as she has in all of her books in a new direction, and several at once— her mind is like a weathervane that spins in a hurricane, unerringly finding the rough underlining to any solace. “Where Shadows Will” does a decent job of excerpting from Natural Light, but it leaves out the majestic centerpiece, the final serial piece Collective Memory. Collective Memory is a book of mnemonic that lavishes attention on the smallest elements of our tongue— on the individual alphabetic character. Like bp nichol her countryman, Cole understands why petulant pixies clamor for Frosted Flakes. Who is JJ? What happens when a little inverted c is placed over the actual c in the proper name Bavčar? Well, she is a wonder and I’ve anagrammed her own name endless times, clear moon, name color, coral omen, elm corona, need I say more.

Kate Greenstreet | Case Sensitive | Ahsahta Press | 2006

Kate Greenstreet’s first book came as a surprise to me, having been burned by a few other Ahsahta publications in earlier years. Now I see thanks to a handy list in the back of the book, that there have been just as many Ahsahta titles I’ve enjoyed as the ones I remembered dismissing. Just goes to show me how easily stereotype draws me in. I wonder how many folks think of Krupskaya in the same way. Tried one, didn’t care for it, the rest are probably all shit as well. In Kate Greenstreet’s case, the book itself is physically lovely with that thick lustrous yellowy paper that’s like a cross between buttermilk and cheesecloth. Above all else her book reminded me of the classic work from Kathleen Fraser I first learned to love in the early 80s, and it even comes with Fraser’s own [brackets] and signs of domestic life made fraught by a highly tuned consciousness, and her overheard scrap[s of enigmatic Antonioniesque fragments of conversation— and with a blurb by Fraser on top of it all. But she is more than— I mean other than—a poet in the How/ever mode, she has her own prosody (seen at its best in a small poem like “phone tap,” so perfect it must have been written with a diamond on glass—and her own trips to take and dare.

Kate Greenstreet | This Is Why I Hurt You | Lame House | 2008

In five sections, This Is Why I Hurt You acts as a severe corrective to the pingings of consciousness featured in Case Sensitive, Greenstreet’s previous book. The flatness and foundness of the material here allows for all sorts of interpretation, but it beats a path away from the numinous, into a celebration of the reflexivity of ordinary USA syntax. “He had these big sharp claws on his hooves, and sometimes he’d put one u[p on me.” Didn’t I read this, in Little House in the Big Woods? “I understood it as the part of our mind where art comes from.”  That’s from William James via Gertrude Stein. “And I hoped he wouldn’t scratch me with them, because that would really hurt.”  I don’t know, Bastard Out of Carolina? American sigils fill this little book to the point of bursting, like fifteen sweeps down my chimney. That’s the fairy tale of the US—it will leave a mark.

Kreg Hasegawa | The New Crustacean | Green Zone | 2008

This young man is writing flash fiction that sits right on the chasm between the prose poem and the traditional short story. Is it parody? Not quite, though Hasegawa delights in his puns and his wordplay, enough to allow it to direct the action from the inside out. “What poetry,” he asks, “can you quote from that can’t possibly poison you back?”  So there’s an awareness of the risk involved in writing, a picnic phenomenology. One long story—I use the word “long: in quotes because most of these stories could be written on the surface of an aspirin with a laser beam—one long story is the title piece, “The New Crustacean,” in which a traveler, meeting with a terrible accident (or other trauma?) becomes the victim of a pair of bad Samaritans in khaki. I’m still scratching my head about how beautiful it is. On another front he uses his close watch over words as a strategy for characterization, or the sensuality that leads from it. “Her life was something I had glazed myself with, or poured myself over, slowly, like gravy. I was something to make meat moist.”  You don’t often hear people reveal so much of themselves, not even in fiction, and definitely not in poetry. Grosbeaks fly in and out of the stories like the moths in Robin Blaser’s Moth Poem. This guy Hasegawa has it, as my little nephew says, going on.

Donato Mancini | Æthel | New Star Books | 2007

At Naropa, Allen Ginsberg spoke of Gertrude Stein’s project as “building little sculptures out of words.” I thought of his, well perhaps rather patronizing description when trying to describe to a former student just what Donato Mancini’s book Wilcox Æthel is all about. It’s a little difficult to show you what he’s doing without illustrations, but luckily Johanna Drucker has written it up on the back of the book and I can crib from her. She avers that Æthel is based on Mancini’s “appropriation of typefaces” and that he uses type we’re used to in other contexts to stand on its head our conventional wisdom on them. In practice even I can see that Mancini twists, stretches, reverses and entwines these fonts into garlands and blobs to satirize our preoccupation with reading itself, for one can barely make out a single word, though each poem has suggestions of words in it. Rather like birds building nests from particles that top scientists might be able to identify individually. Dodie and I printed some selections of Æthel in our zine, Mirage #4/Period[ical]. We’re baby boomers so we recognized the font Jim Morrison and the Doors used again and again as their logo, but what Mancini did with it is provocation in the highest.

Filip Marinovich | Zero Readership| Ugly Duckling | 2008

I had this book and couldn’t remember how I had it, even though the inscription was a warm one. Then it came to me like a flashback in a Resnais film—me, like Emmanuelle Riva, distracted, at Canessa Park the city’s most unreliable art gallery, at a poetry reading. Him, Filip Marinovich, perfectly pleasant and gamin offering me his book in good faith I imagine, but me preoccupied by professional problems hardly gave him the time of day. A curtain of shame falls across Emmanuelle Riva’s piquant features. She lies to friends, pretends she doesn’t care. In the meantime the book grows bigger every day in her hands. Well it is, as he had told her, “an epic,” a massive, oversized account of poetic activity in Montenegro, Belgrade, New York, the savage capitals of torn and bruised faith. Marinovich’s soulful, notebooky lyrics etch out the struggle of the artist in hard times and the refugee making his way from palace to soup kitchen with an élan invincible. You can feel the slushy snow, you can smell the smoke, you can certainly take or leave the hardboiled Serbian refugee family with their sage advice and their magic realism and Grammas Nada and Mercy. The epic is structured in roughly the same proportions as Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, as an accumulation of mass leading to apocalyptic takeoff, but in Marinovich’s hands this progression turns into a “new tune in the oxygen mix.” Well done дечко!

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

Alana Wilcox has again designed what seems like a perfect book, and it’s not magenta but rather a yellowish greenish chartreuse halfway between pear and olive—thus the suggestion of the magenta fairly pops out like one of those old Jasper Johns’ paintings of the Canadian flag. Robertson’s seventh book of poetry works differently than some of her others, and it mostly nearly approaches the way other people make up books of poetry, by accretion, a drifting into the harbor of the book the isolated moments of a lifetime of work. But hers are not like yours or mine, instead this is the work of one who can say with some pride, “My fidelity is my own disaster.”  Its a heraldic book, but as its title suggests, a sassy, almost a Debbie Allen sort of book too. It might be her best book!  If not, I predict that it will vie with a few others as many people’s favorite book by her. Robertson is coming from a place in which a tormented silence insists, “When women are exiled it seems normal,” and these poems are the tufts of marsh grass on which, like Eliza, the exile finds her footing in the rush of the restaurant/river.

Jared Stanley | Book Made of Forest | Salt Cambridge | 2009

If I ever publish another book I want Graham Foust and Bhanu Kapil to write blurbs for it!  Jared Stanley, on top of winning the Crashaw prize that resulted in the publication of this book, Foust and Kapil wrote these great blurbs on top of it. Now as for Crashaw, I’m looking and looking and it took me nearly a week of re-reading the entertaining and exciting poems of Book Made of Forest, and I just wasn’t feeling the “Crashaw” reference, but then it came to me… The historical Crashaw, who lived nearly 400 years ago, wrote as many poems after turning Roman Catholic as he did before it—poems of objects joked together in the metaphysical style, poems in which a simple comparison balloons out concentrically into a dirigible capable of lifting the planet off its hinges. Thus the play Foust makes out of Stanley’s title, the book made of forest which Foust examines in the Crashevian style, relinquishing his hold on the metaphor to Arshile Gorky’s notorious boast of destruction. “I love it,” reads one of Stanley’s poems, in its entirety, “it’s so dead/ it’s straightforward.”  I admire this continual stretching for it, and for the most part Stanley succeeds in the form of his creation. The only thing he can’t do, or hardly ever, is finish a poem as resoundingly as it begins. Maybe that’s the point, in which case, OK.

Suzanne Stein | Hole in Space | OMG! | 2009

“You went to the conference speculating on the expanded field of writing, and I went to work.” The truth is, some of us have to go to work, but Suzanne Stein’s little chapbook, produced by Brandon Brown’s ingenious OMG! press, punches a hole in space and into the formulation. You might call this a conceptual piece of writing, certainly it winds up with a  eerie J B Priestley hole in time, for Stein takes us to a November 2008 event at the Poetry Project in New York, where she is delivering a talk in cold Manhattan, while in southern California fires are burning down whole coastal regions. The talk apes ordinary human speech, but it has an aspect of prophecy to it, Edgar Cayce the Sleeping prophet, for Stein announces that in four months time she will repeat every word of the talk a Manhattan tech is now recording, in an art gallery space in San Francisco. The second half of the book gives us the text of her San Francisco talk, and for those of us who were there at Canessa Park, the book presents an eerie souvenir of one occasion when the past completely predicated the present. We all know there are scripts we are doomed to repeat, but Hole in Space makes it all come real, the tangle at the end of the mind. And yes, that was the gallery space in which young Filip Marinovich and I shared one stolen moment of brief encounter.

More Kevin Killian here.

Attention Span 2009 – David Dowker

with one comment

Elizabeth Bachinsky | Curio: Grotesques and Satires from the Electronic Age | BookThug | 2009

Laynie Browne | The Scented Fox | Wave | 2007

Norma Cole | Natural Light | Libellum | 2009

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko | Dust | Dalkey Archive | 2008

Alan Halsey | Term as in Aftermath | Ahadada | 2009

Andrew Joron | The Sound Mirror | Flood | 2008

Geraldine Monk | Ghost & Other Sonnets | Salt | 2008

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Michael Palmer | Active Boundaries | New Directions | 2008

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

Lisa Samuels | The Invention of Culture | Shearsman | 2008

More David Dowker here.