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Posts Tagged ‘Rae Armantrout

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 | Keith Tuma

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Steven Zultanski | Cop Kisser | Book Thug | Toronto | 2010

“Workers of the world, come on already.” 32 brands of beer matched by 32 Zultanski personalities, Lenin a deck of identity cards, Mao with Zultanski’s mother: this is a collection of long tail poetry taking on the banality of information with insight and wit, its idioms absolutely contemporary, its prosody deadpan, its cover brighter than canary yellow. Rod Smith wouldn’t let me out of Bridge Street Books without it. He was right to insist.

Rae Armantrout | Money Shot | Wesleyan | 2011

“All we ask / is that our thinking / sustain momentum, / identify targets.” I don’t know a poet who thinks more in her poems, via analogy, juxtaposition, definition, and otherwise. Armantrout begins the first poem with a line from the Book of Revelation promising a new world, noting that new worlds are always with us—and also not with us—in “The spray / of all possible paths.” But thinking can’t stop with recognition or contemplation: “Define possible.” Several of the poems think about the collapse of the economy, e.g. “Money Shot” and “Soft Money,” where one notorious phrase from the pornoculture—“so hot”—deflates those who would eroticize social inequality.

Jeff Hilson | In The Assarts | Veer | 2010

A comic sonnet sequence and something of a clearing in the dark wood of recent experimental English poetry, no less serious or engaged for its light touch. The kitsch of England from crossbows to Kinks, Anne Boleyn to Jeremy Irons. “I am sick of the banks of England” in a mix of faux-archaic and contemporary registers where Wyatt meets Berrigan: “I was lost in doe a deer.” Stephen Rodefer gets a cameo, and there’s passing reference to In the American Tree and The Reality Street Book of Sonnets. One poem opens with what is probably a joke about a recent book by Jean-Luc Nancy. That one takes us back to the book’s first poem, where the reader is asked to “Give them thy finger in the Forêt de Nancy.”

William Fuller | Hallucination | Flood Editions | 2011

It’s not only poetry that almost successfully resists the intelligence—try banking: “Several times a day someone passes by the door holding a report.” That’s the first sentence of the book’s last poem, a prose poem called “The Circuit.” Maybe it’s best to indicate the texture and quality of these prose poems making for more than half of Fuller’s book by quoting first lines from a few others: “More numbness from less pain, I heard the preacher say. When does apprehension become extinction? Of what omitted act is it the fruit?” (“Flaming”). “It dreamt that it spoke as it dreamt and wrote down what it spoke in echoes of situations dreamt about which its mind wondered at” (“The Will”). “For the period of thirty lunar days after the receipt of appropriate notice [undefined], the parties [not specified] shall attempt in good faith to resolve whatever dispute has (evidently) arisen by employing the advanced measurement approach, which computes a given event’s penumbra as it tumbles into the lap of someone who studies it.” Seeing as if through fog events apprehended only after the fact constitutes most worlds; these poems map our life “in the dark” while admitting—not always as ominously as “The Circuit” does—the “imperceptible” as fact.

Frances Kruk | Down You Go / Négation de Bruit | Punch | 2011

A series of fragments after Danielle Collobert, two or three lines or clusters of lines per page, white space the silence between them and allowing for their little explosions —“I revolt / project.” “Swarms! We will bang / into the sun Blinded.” Bitterness distilled to an essence: “I ordered a hurricane & I am still / on this island I am still / on this island.” I had to look up “crkl,” which appears twice, and so courtesy of Wikipedia: “Crk-like protein is a protein that in humans is encoded by the CRKL gene…. CRKL has oncogenic potential.” I don’t know Collobert’s work well enough to suggest the most pertinent comparisons, having seen only two books translated by Norma Cole, but I do know that this is a powerful and defiant book—“We come to fuck the mutants / We go to mutant them / I am with the mutant / firing limbs.” One of the best young British poets is Polish-Canadian.

Mina Loy, ed. Sara Crangle | Stories and Essays of Mina Loy | Dalkey Archive | 2011

As Crangle notes in her introduction, this first book-length collection of Loy’s short stories, drama, and commentary is not a “definitive” or “critical” edition, but its apparatus includes a smart and readable introduction and 100 plus pages of notes briefly situating and glossing the work while detailing the nature of the manuscripts involved and listing Loy’s editorial corrections. The book ought to make for the best news of the year in modernist studies, though you can ignore modernist studies and just read it.

Tom Pickard | More Pricks Than Prizes | Pressed Wafer | 2010

A brief memoir of the 1970s that has Pickard’s arrest, imprisonment, and eventual acquittal on charges of selling marijuana as its central story, with glimpses of Eric Mottram and Jeff Nuttall and a more extensive account of Basil Bunting and what he did for Pickard as mentor and character witness at the trial. I wish we had more of this kind of thing about the days of the so-called British Poetry Revival. I’d trade it for a dozen academic studies. Written in a no-nonsense prose, with one moment where Pickard puts his foot on the gas. That’s where he’s detailing a scheme to use books as ballast in crates previously emptied of “almost one ton of Ugandan bush” and writes of selling the people who were doing this all of his copies of The Strand Magazine, his sets of The Times History of World War I and Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s not enough to make the weight so he starts buying up crap books all over London. Here’s the Homeric moment: “The ancient bookseller was blissful as we bought much of his space wasting dust gathering, back breaking, spirit deadening unread and unreadable religious and military texts; all those pounds of printed pages by puffing parsons, anaemic academics, bloated bishops, geriatric generals, corpulent combatants and high ranking haemorrhoidal heroes. All that catechistic cataplasm, the militarist mucus, that pedantic pus from festering farts. The engaging entrails of emetic ambassadors, pestiferous papers by prudish pedagogues. I struggled to the wagon with arms full of books, and still he wasn’t satisfied—so I purchased conquering chronicles by conceited commanders….” This goes on for another 40 or fifty lines and ends as follows: “And it still wasn’t enough so I bought the works of talk show hosts, canting sofa cunts coughing up chintzy chunder, bloated volumes by toady poets who sit in circles blowing prizes up each other’s arseholes with straws—until we’d filled the crates.”

Jed Birmingham and Kyle Schlesinger, eds. | Mimeo Mimeo 4 | Winter 2010

Like Pickard’s memoir, a valuable resource for those who want to catch up with the British poetry that matters most, including the “only known essay” by Asa Benveniste, whose poems ought to have more readers, interviews about small press publishing with Tom Raworth and David Meltzer, essays by Ken Edwards and Alan Halsey (on the mimeo editions of Bill Griffiths), and selections from Eric Mottram’s correspondence with Jeff Nuttall. It concludes with Miles Champion’s interview with Trevor Winkfield.

Gizelle Gajelonia | Thirteen Ways of Looking at TheBus | Tinfish Press | 2010

The modernist canon as read and written through in Hawaii—Stevens, Bishop, Crane, Ashbery, and Eliot’s “The Waste Land” for starters. Here’s the Eliot poem’s opening lines:

He Do Da Kine in Different Voices

January February March April May June
July August September October November
December is the cruelest month, mass breeding
Plumeria leis out of homestead land, mixing
Exoticism with desire, stirring
Dull roots with windward and mauka showers….

The chapbook ends with prose titled “The Day I Overthrew The Kingdom of Hawai‘i”: “I remember filling out the application form. Gajelonia, Gizelle, Evangelista. My middle name is my mother’s maiden name because I’m Filipino. ‘Are you an American citizen?’ the form asked. No, I told you I’m Filipino. Technically. I have a green card. And a green passport. But I’m an American. I’ve been here 4 years. I got my period here. My first love was an American boy named David Powers. My favorite boy band was N Sync, not Backstreet Boys. I’m in the ninth grade. In the Philippines there’s no such thing as a ninth grade. I’m not sure what I am. Is that an option? Call my mother in case of an emergency….”

Rachel Warriner | Eleven Days | RunAmok | 2011

One poem each day between the IMF’s arrival in Ireland and the agreement signed: “burn me up / in anonymous austerity / your fat face / lies / in last sovereign days” is how it begins and “sold out and done” is how it ends. For now. Promising work from a new press in Cork.

Ron Silliman | Wharf Hypothesis | LINESchapbooks | 2011

I’d lost track of Silliman’s poetry since the The Alphabet was published entire and found it pleasant and interesting to look over his shoulder on the train from Victoria to the Text Festival in Bury, England, noticing him noticing this and that (missing baseball diamonds) and thinking about writing and about kissing while punning along (“feeling blurby—Simon / mit Garfunkel”). Like Dickens in America—maybe—and Dickens ends the poem, which is said to belong to “Northern Soul,” which is in turn said to be a part of Universe. Beautifully produced, with a cover photograph by Tom Raworth.

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Keith Tuma‘s On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes is due from Salt later this year.

Tuma’s Attention Span for 2010, 2009 . Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Robert Stanton

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Rae Armantrout | Money Shot | Wesleyan | 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Ford | Six Children | Faber | 2011

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

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

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

Geoffrey Hill | Clavics | Enitharmon | 2011

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

Joseph Massey | At the Point | Shearsman | 2011

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

Jennifer Moxley | Coastal | The Song Cave | 2011

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

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

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

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

Keston Sutherland | Stress Position | Barque | 2009

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

Christian Wiman | Every Riven Thing | Farrar | 2010

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

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

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

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

Attention Span 2010 – Steve Evans

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Susan Howe | Souls of the Labadie Track | New Directions | 2007
George Stanley | Vancouver | New Star | 2008
Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009
Emmanuel Hocquard | Une Grammaire de Tanger, vols. I-II | cipM | 2007 & 2009

This not altogether arbitrary constellation of texts occupied me so thoroughly in the summer and early fall of 2009 that I abandoned my usual custom of trying to “catch up” with the other books I’d missed during the academic year. Now, if I could only salvage the long essay that grew out of this reading—with excursions into social media, Viktor Shklovsky’s “red elephant,” Roland Barthes’s “neutral,” Wallace Stevens’s poem “The Course of a Particular,” and lots of other odds & ends—I’d feel less like a dope.

Thomas Pynchon | V. | Lippincott | 1961

Not sure why I was so slow in coming to Pynchon. Something about the reputation put me off—as did a certain species of (inevitably male) graduate student whose admiration for him awoke the opposite in me back in the nineties. I waited to tackle Gravity’s Rainbow until the summer and fall of 2006, and then had the good luck to join an Against the Day “deathmarch” that a friend of Rodney Koeneke’s organized in the winter and spring of 2007. Last summer I purchased Inherent Vice on its pub date and read it quickly and easily as August waned in a gesture of “contemporaneity”—I wanted to read a book of his while it was new. V. is, in a way, my “favorite”: lexically, it remains startlingly fresh; the syntax, sentence by sentence, is a little simpler than in Gravity’s Rainbow, but it crackles with ingenious combinations and doesn’t “blur” as often as in that masterpiece; and there’s a levity—not withstanding some very dark subject matter—that charms, even at a distance of nearly fifty years.

Bob Dylan | Chronicles, Volume One | Simon & Schuster | 2004
David Hadju | Positively 4th Street | Farrar | 2001
Martin Scorsese, dir. | No Direction Home | Spitfire Pictures | 2005

Because Richard Farina had been Pynchon’s roommate at Cornell, and because I remember Jennifer liking it back nearer to its release date, I decided to interleave Hadju’s Positively Fourth Street with my first pass through V. The Dylan therein portrayed is hard to like, which I confess suits my state of burn out, not so much with Dylan as with his worshipers, just fine, even if the account of the Farinas struck me as unbalanced in the other direction. Dave van Ronk in the present, the British boo-ers, and the historical footage were what I liked best Scorsese’s fan letter, though its recipient-subject’s spoken timbre was nice, too.

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

In addition to affording me an unexpected apprenticeship to Beckett’s acute eye for visual art— I took advantage of the meticulous footnotes to track down digital images of many of the paintings he mentions—this volume also taught me a lot about cysts, understatement, and friendship. The last chance trip through Hitler’s Germany is a highlight, as are the letters mentioning Beckett’s fateful psychoanalysis with Bion, about whom I’d like to know more. Along the way, I couldn’t help dipping into More Pricks Than Kicks, Gontaski’s edition of The Complete Short Prose, and the relevant chapters in Knowlson’s Damned to Fame, and I now look forward to rereading Murphy for the first time since 1987, though I cringe in handling the battered and slightly smelly paperback that I evidently paid three dollars for used in some Hillcrest bookshop—may be time to invest in a fresh copy (and anyway, I always underline the same passages, no matter how much time has passed between readings).

Handel, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner | Acis & Galatea (1718) | Deutsche Grammophon | 1979

The exquisite symmetry and line-by-line brilliance of the libretto by Alexander Pope and John Gay combine with Handel’s Stein-like mania for repetition (“da capo”!) to produce the best account of desire’s circuitry to reach my ears of late. Saw the Boston Early Music Festival’s production in the fall & have been wearing out the CD, whose Polyphemus (of the “capacious mouth”) I find more convincing, since.

Jacques Lacan | Le Séminaire, Livre XVII: L’envers de la psychanalyse, 1969-1970 | Seuil | 1991
Jacques Lacan, trans. Russell Grigg | The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis | Norton 2007

Weaving between Grigg’s English and the original text as established by J-A Miller, with plenty of swerves back into Freud (esp. the dream of the butcher’s witty wife and the paper “A Child Is Being Beaten”), and out into the archive of historical unrest just following 1968, I slowly—it took most of a year—made it through this perhaps liveliest and timeliest of Lacan’s many seminars. I adore the seminar form (Barthes on The Neutral, Kojève on Hegel, etc.), and am always astonished by Lacan’s perverse inhabitation of its conventions, which he systematically deranges with all the cunning condensations, displacements, and half-sayings of Freud’s “dreamwork,” supplemented by a humor that is dry and Duchampian one moment, hot and “hysterical” the next.

For a while, I enjoyed the ghostly company of some “slacker Lacanians” who joined a Facebook group (called “Selon Lacan” in homage to the Vancouver-based “Lacan Salon”) with the intention of reading Seminar XVII together. Nearly none of us carried through, but it was an interesting experiment in dispersed intellectual community using a platform otherwise devoted mostly to channel-flooding triviality.

Brian Eno | Another Green World | EG | 1975

David Sheppard’s 2008 biography, On Some Faraway Beach, abused the adjective “bespoke,” the verb “essay,” and several synonyms for premature baldness in the course of 450 dutiful, enthusiastic, and well-informed pages. Geeta Dayal’s contribution to Continuum’s 33 1/3 project— which, judging from several posts to the series’ blog, didn’t come easy—is more modest in scope, and though it mutes the note of “idiot glee” without which Eno comes off as just a pretentious ass, it did lead me into a round of close and repeated listens (to Here Come the Warm Jets, too) that solved nicely the problem of what to do with my ears while driving for more than a month.

Denis Diderot, trans. Jacques Barzun | Rameau’s Nephew | Doubleday | 1956

Myself: Gently, dear fellow. Look and tell me—I shan’t take your uncle as an example. He is a hard man, brutal, inhuman, miserly, a bad father, bad husband, and bad uncle. And it is by no means sure that he is a genius who has advanced his art to such a point that ten years from now we shall still discuss his works. Take Racine instead—there was a genius, and his reputation as a man was none too good. Take Voltaire—

He: Don’t press the point too far: I am a man to argue with you.

Myself: Well, which would you prefer—that he should have been a good soul, at one with his ledger, like Briasson, or with his yardstick, like Barbier; legitimately getting his wife with child annually—a good husband, good father, good uncle, good neighbor, fair trader and nothing more; or that he should have been deceitful, disloyal, ambitious, envious, and mean, but also the creator of Andromaque, Britannicus, Iphigénie, Phèdre, and Athalie?

He: For himself I daresay it would have been better to be the former.

Myself: That is infinitely truer than you think.

He: There you go, you fellows! If we say anything good, it’s like lunatics or people possessed—by accident. It’s only people like you who really know what they’re saying. I tell you, Master Philosopher, I know what I say and know it as well as you know what you say. (13-14).

Another “swerve” out of Lacan’s Seminar XVII, with incentive added by the fascinating role this text—in Goethe’s translation—plays in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Highly recommended.

Matthew Weiner, creator and exec. producer | Mad Men | AMC | 2007-

Conjures the taste of the maraschino cherry from my father’s Manhattan on my childhood tongue and all that it intimated about the catastrophe of masculinity. The casting, costuming, scripting, and small-screen mise-en-scène are frequently faultless—pace, for example, “Guy Walks into an Ad Agency,” from season three—and the glance back at an “adult” world long since extinguished by a youth culture that squeezes even geezers into skinny jeans & hoodies is weirdly entrancing. As Noël Coward presciently asked in 1955, “What’s going to happen to the children / When there aren’t any more grown-ups?” Mad Men is a kind of an answer.

Alice Notley | Reason and Other Women | Chax | 2010
Andrew Joron | Trance Archive | City Lights | 2010
Aaron Kunin | The Sore Throat | Fence | 2010

My quick take on “trance” poetics is here. Even a squib can take months of reading!

Bob Perelman & Michael Golston, organizers | Rethinking Poetics | Columbia & University of Pennsylvania | 2010
Anne Waldman et al., organizers | Summer Writing Program | Naropa | 2010

I went directly from one (Columbia) to the other (Naropa) and so had more poetry-centric personal contact in a ten day stretch in June than I would normally experience in a year. Both spaces were fraught with anxiety, and even antagonism, but I found them exhilarating anyway, especially in the interstices, where kindness, curiosity, and a shared commitment to making language do unexpected things tended to dispel the negativity that the “official proceedings” (especially at Columbia) so often generated. Joanne Kyger’s ability to transform a drab hotel room in Boulder into an oasis of sociability through the deft placement of a very few but beautiful objects holds the place here for all the other pleasures I experienced during those ten days—that and her wonderful advice, frequently sung, “Don’t explain!”

More Steve Evans here. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Joshua Edwards

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Pedro Ramos | Black Scabbard Research Centre | self-published | 2010

A pamphlet of menacing b&w coastal photos by a young Portuguese photographer who lives in Australia. It uses original work as well as photos appropriated for various media and friends. Highlights include a child sitting on a dead shark, a cliff diver, kissing teenagers, a bat being fed with a syringe, and a back-lit figure in a hoodie. Ramos is from Madeira Island, and his photos have been particularly helpful as work on a manuscript about my birthplace, Galveston, with my dad, using photos he took of the island about thirty years ago. Galveston has the dubious distinction of being featured in a forthcoming low budget sci-fi film, Monsters. Set mostly in Mexico and on the border, the movie’s scenes of devastated, carpet-bombed landscapes were filmed on Galveston after hurricane Ike. The film’s editor said “But we didn’t really need to create an illusion of mass destruction in Galveston,because it was already there, everywhere, after the hurricane. All we had to do is block out any view of the highway in the background. Otherwise, we got millions of dollars’ worth of production design for next to nothing.”

Samuel Amadon | Like a Sea | Iowa | 2010

Like a Sea is a formally restless book full of restless poems that are by turns aphoristic, hilarious, image-driven, sad, and meditative. As various as the poems are, Amadon’s voice is clear, albeit a chorus.

Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009

I heard Armantrout read for the first time earlier this year. I liked her poems before the reading, I loved them after. This book has plenty of the wit of pain, the pain of wit, etc.

Anne Carson | Nox | New Directions | 2010

I’ve mostly just stared at the pages of Nox, wishing I could place memoir and history in such elegant folds as does Carson. I think Rexroth would have gone apeshit for this thing.

Brandon Downing | Lake Antiquity | Fence | 2009

Lake Antiquity is beautiful and it makes me laugh.

Andrew Joron | Trance Archive | City Lights | 2010

What an ear! “Constellations for Theremin,” an excerpt of which is in this book, is one of the most stunning poems I’ve come across in a long time. Joron writes like someone born yesterday to parents from tomorrow.

Ayane Kawata, trans. Sawako Nakayasu | Time of Sky & Castles in the Air | Litmus | 2010

Another great translation by Sawako Nakayasu. I was lucky to read this in manuscript form, and I’ve been rereading it since. Ayane Kawata’s terrifying dreams make for awesome poems.

Ibn Khalawayh, trans. David Larsen | Names of the Lion | Atticus/Finch | 2009

One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen (designed by Michael Cross), Names of the Lion is better beheld than commented on. Larsen’s introduction and notes are excellent.

César Moro | La tortuna ecuestre y otros poemas en español | Biblioteca Nueva | 2002

I heard about Moro last summer from a Peruvian friend. Unfortunately, he’s pretty much unknown to English readers and very little of his work has been published in translation. We’re doing a feature on him in Mantis, publishing some of his French poems from Love Until Death (he wrote mostly in French, his second language, after moving to Europe in his twenties). La tortuga ecuestre y otros poemas en español consists of his first book and some uncollected early work.

Sawako Nakayasu | Texture Notes | Letter Machine | 2010

A book of surfaces and dreams, voyages and events, measurements, meals, colors, and, above all, the body pressed up against the world. Another year, another great book by one of my favorite poets.

William Wylie | Route 36 | Flood | 2010

Flood did a terrific job producing this book of b&w photos of landscapes and small town architecture in Kansas and Colorado. An introduction by Merrill Gilfillan provides some context. My dad is a documentary photographer, and I’ve always been interested in the lyrical possibilities of projects like this that reflect the essential gaze. I hope Flood publishes more photography titles, and I’m definitely going to look into Wylie’s other books.

More Joshua Edwards here. Edwards’s Attention Span for 2009, 2007. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2009 – Pam Brown

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Laurie Duggan | Crab & Winkle | Shearsman Books | 2009

Robert Purves & Sam Ladkin | Complicities: British Poetry 1945-2007 | Litteraria Pragensia | 2007

Adam Aitken | Eighth Habitation | Giramondo | 2009

George Alexander | Slow Burn | University of Western Australia Press| 2009

George Stanley | Vancouver: A Poem | New Star Books | 2008

Brian Henry | In The Unlikely Event Of A Water | Equipage | 2007

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

Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009

Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Ahsahta Press | 2009

Eileen Myles | The Importance of Being Iceland | Semiotexte | 2009

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood Editions | 2009

More Pam Brown here.


Attention Span 2009 – Rae Armantrout

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Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Ahsahta | 2009

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

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

Ben Doller | FAQ | Ahsahta | 2009

Elizabeth Robinson | The Orphan | Fence | 2008

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

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

Joseph Massey | Areas of Fog | Shearsman | 2009

Roberto Bolano | 2666 | Farrar Strauss | 2008

Merlin Donald | A Mind So Rare | Norton | 2001

More Rae Armantrout here.