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Attention Span 2011 | Jeanine Webb

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

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

Brian Ang | Paradise Now | grey book | 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Nealon | Plummet | Edge | 2009

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

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

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

K. Lorraine Graham | Terminal Humming | Edge | 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

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

Sandra Simonds | Warsaw Bikini | Bloof | 2008

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


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

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Attention Span 2011 | Joshua Clover

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Bruno Bosteels | The Actuality of Communism | Verso | 2011

A fantastically useful orientation guide for the recent boom in political theory: Ranciere, Moreiras, Badiou, Zizek, various others. I can’t say I share the basic supposition, regarding the virtue of formalizations of concepts which attend the non-abstract problem of state form. But I was grateful to understand a bunch of stuff much better after reading.

Silvia Federici | Caliban and the Witch | Autonomedia | 2004

We read this book in reading group in the summer; I was interested to discover that many others’ experiences of it were quite different from mine. Someone took it as a defense of witchiness, rather than a history of how the conjured threat of feminine dark magic served as pretext to dispossess and discipline women. Well okay. But I have been pretty obsessed with revisiting the Italian Marxist feminists; while it seems to me more and more that their male comrades (Negri, Virno, Marazzi) got really crucial things wrong, they themselves were making some of the great breakthroughs of the era, ones that are with us more than ever, I think.

Jean-Marie Gleize | Tarnac, un acte préparatoire | Seuil | 2011

What poetry should be doing, if one is willing to submit to the ambiguous discipline of the word “should.”

David Harvey | Enigma of Capital | Oxford | 2010

Basically a primer version of the longer and more ambitious Limits to Capital, attempting to recast it along the lines of his Brief Introduction to Neoliberalism. And indeed it is lucid, clear, systematic, and persuasive: a nice reminder that spending decades thinking about a problem set can lead to refinement and immediacy of ideas rather than the opposite. In that sense it’s like a refutation of the idea of “Late Style.” But actually I miss the grander version: in the condensation and reader-friendliness of this account, certain explanations of causality within the dynamic of capital become too clear, too one-directional, less dialectical, and even sometimes mistaken. Of little matter. The best recent guide to the most complex man-made object in the word, endlessly useful, and with luck it will lead readers to the fuller and more frustratingly suspended—and finally more adept—versions.

Uyen Hua | a / s / l (age / sex / location) | ingirumimusnocteetsonsumimurigni | 2011

Tao Lin with a soul, albeit a fascinating and strange one, provisionally new.

Ke$ha | Animal | RCA | 2010

Vomiting up tequila and glitter.

Christopher Nealon | The Matter of Capital | Harvard | 2011

It is a delight to watch this book become influential, not because it deserves it—it does—but because it is clearly advancing the conversation.

Pasolini | In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology | City Lights | 2010

Pasolini! who had to leave the communist party to be a better communist! Reading this I was reminded of “On A Generation That Squandered Its Poets,” and how we tend to think of that essay as concerning how communism ruined, wasted, and killed its blindingly beautiful writers—until we revisit the essay, and rediscover that the story it tells of Mayakovsky unfolds his misery arising from the failure of the revolution to be communist enough, the ways that it stopped short, blunted itself, made concessions, quit the promise of its total radicality. Also, a couple of the Pasolini poems are translated by Jonathan Richman, which is just the oddest thing in the world. Trying to parse the subterranean connection between the atmospheres of Friulia and the summer air of Route 128 when it’s late an night is a real mindfuck.

Arthur Rimbaud trans. John Ashbery | Illuminations | Farrar | 2011

I haven’t read this yet but I’m sure it’s great.

McKenzie Wark | The Beach Beneath the Street | Verso | 2011

There is some sense now that histories of the Situationist International are like Harry Potter fanfic; the main impulse is to sustain the imagined experience of life in that bohemian Hogwarts of the group’s milieu in a neighborhood or two in mid-century Paris. The vital difference is that there is a self-reflexive claim here about what the imagination might be for, other than self-sustaining profitability.

Ellen Willis | Out of the Vinyl Deeps | Minnesota | 2010

“Willis’s music writing was clear and direct, without gamesmanship, but never one-dimensional. No one had previously captured the nuanced double motion in which rock could generate untold pleasures, presentiments of freedom and equality and unfettered sexuality—but could never escape the gravity of the exclusions and inequities and unacknowledged labor on which it depended. This dialectical conception of the world and its workings can be as every bit as revolutionary as rock, the last great invention of the postwar boom.”


Joshua Clover is a Professor of English Literature at University of California Davis. He is currently at work on a book tentatively entitled The Epic of Capital, bringing together the study of poetry with contemporary political economy, and finishing a poetry collection called Tranche/Syntagma.

Clover’s Attention Span for 2008, 2007, 2006, 20052004, 2003. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Michael Scharf

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Bernadette Mayer | Studying Hunger Journals | Station Hill | 2011

Brian Kim Stefans | Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Evaluation | Citoyen | 2010

Douglas Piccinnini | Crystal Hard-On | Minute | 2010

Douglas Piccinnini | Soft | The Cultural Society | 2010

 Josef Kaplan | Peace | Poem Trees + Squash | 2010

 Julian T. Brolaski | Gowanus atropolis | Ugly Duckling | 2011

 Lawrence Giffin | Sorties | Tea Party Republicans | 2011

 Susan Howe | That This | New Directions | 2011

 Tsering Wangmo Dhompa | My rice tastes like the lake | Apogee | 2011

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

 Vahni Capildeo | Undraining Sea | Eggbox | 2009


Michael Scharf is the author of For Kid Rock/Total Freedom. His collection of critical work, The Res Poetica, is forthcoming. He lives in New York, where he works in natural language processing, and in Shillong.

Scharf’s Attention Span for 2010, 2009200820072006200520042003. Back to 2011 directory.