A product of Third Factory
Calum Storrie | The Delirious Museum: A Journey from the Louvre to Las Vegas | I.B.Tauris | 2006
Calum Storrie's starting point is a belief that the museum should be a continuation of the street – as easy to enter, as amusing to pass through. Applying the Situationist notion of dérive (literally, 'drift'), that almost casual engagement with the city depending on chance and a degree of chaos, the Delirious Museum is imagined as occupying an ambiguous position—both an existing and a potential space. Inanimate things in museums – teacups from which no one drinks, pictures which will never again be bought and sold – can, as much as stuffed animals, make us think sadly of the time when they were alive. Modern curators know this and spend much time and money avoiding notions of dust, death and mummification. Even art museums don't cram everything in the collection onto the walls. But in trying to avoid the confusion, heterogeneity and abundance of old-style museums some of what they shared with the street has gone: an ability to feed the imagination with unexplained, comical, sinister and melancholy juxtapositions, for example – the aspect of collecting the Surrealists exploited.
NA | on the Passage of a few people through a rather brief moment in time: THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL:1957-1972 | MIT | 1991
An essential document for anyone wanting to drift again like we did in May '68. Essays by Peter Wollen, Mirella Bandini, Greil Marcus and others. Rich in illustration—comics, film stills, colour plates of agit-art, photos. It includes 'Situationist Data'—an eleven-page chronology from 1956 until 1972. (out of print but available 2nd hand)
Caroline Koebel & Kyle Schlesinger | Schablone Berlin | Chax | 2005
More dérive—drifting through the streets of the New Berlin making a photographic record of stencil art. It's a kind of smudgy close-up of the most ephemeral and unexpected of the contemporary urban arts.
Kurt Brereton | Hyper Taiwan: Art Design Culture | Art & Collection Group Taipei | 2005
Australian multi/mixed-media artist and academic, known in Taiwan as 'Doctor Kurt', speeds around Taiwan on his scooter of dérivement. He presents the 'sweet potato' island of Taiwan as the first postmodern country of the 21st century. Hyper-lavishly visual, the book has essays on post-media digital culture, design, contemporary art and cultural issues and features the work of young Taiwanese new-media artists and designers. (bilingual—Chinese/English) www.kurtbrereton.com.hyperbk.html
Jake Smallman & Carl Nyman | Stencil Graffiti Capital Melbourne | Mark Batty Publisher | 2005
Produced by a NY publisher whose interest is in the evolution of graphic styles as a method of immediate communication (e.g. 'Arabic for Designers', 'New Visual Culture of Modern Iran' etc) this book covers the diversity of critical dialogue that engages urban stencil artists in Melbourne, the sophisticated capital city of Victoria, Australia. A few visitors include Banksy from the U.K. and Sydney's Numskull. www.stencilgraffiticapital.com
Fiona Foley, ed. | The Art of Politics The Politics of Art | Keeaira | 2006
A collection of papers, records of performance and graphics from a conference at the Queensland Museum in October 2005. Issues concerning the place of Australian indigenous contemporary art in Brisbane in particular and the world in general, it covers topics like whiteness, identity politics, the perceived passive resistance to contemporary indigenous art by a non-indigenous culturati and artists' passive insistence as a counter to it. www.kpress.com.au
Claudia Rankine | Don't Let Me Be Lonely | Graywolf | 2004
The sub-title, 'An American Lyric', is apt. An engrossing, seamlessly-written book of poetic prose that boldly analyses the 'society of the spectacle' and the way we live, die and mourn now, in the irradiating glow of a raddling media. Brilliant.
Kristin Prevallet | Shadow Evidence Intelligence | Heretical Texts/Factory School | 2006
'Imagining how poetry IS public art.' An experiment in agit-poetry including notes and descriptions from a 'Special File'—pop-prop-agit, manipulated aerial photos with intervening blocks of text critiquing surveillance and a 'Photofrag file' investigating, via photographic billboard fragments and bold text, how 'we see' Britney Spears, a representation of women, consumerism, and 'the opiates of the people'. Also—oil/war poems.
Ken Bolton | At The Flash & At The Baci | Wakefield | 2006
From the intro—'many of these poems were begun, or worked on—in the mornings before work, or in workday lunch breaks…at 'The Flash', 'The Baci' and 'Tu Dish', all of them coffee shop's in Adelaide's Hindley Street.' Also poems written in Rome, Italy. Flip, gauche, witty, philosophical, discursive and entirely original—as the back cover says 'nobody in Australia writes quite like Ken Bolton.' An extensive, terrific collection of poems from one of the wide-awake (and so he should be, with all that caffeine). As Millie Dickins said 'Excellent—cool.' www.wakefieldpress.com.au
Laurie Duggan | The Passenger | Queensland | 2006
'Harum-scarum haze on the Brisbane streets…' begins 'In Memory of Ted Berrigan' 'darkness falls like a wet sponge/the peanut jar rattles in the kitchen/ it is 5.25pm'. A concise (85 pages) collection of poems demonstrating Laurie Duggan's usual eclecticism and his depth of poetic know-how. 'I cook dinner to/Danny Gatton,88/Elmira Street,/the moon, yellow/gibbous/over Morningside,/thinking 50s hits/ a teenager imagining/being there/(on the moon)' …lines that lead to George Méliès, Lou Reed, The Simpsons and so on. www.uqp.uq.edu.au
Jean-François Lyotard | postmodern fables | Minnesota | 1997
I'm re-reading these fables in search of the initial stimulation they once afforded my often skimpy, slightly miserable practice of poetry writing. And it almost seems to have worked. (This pursuit being the evidence of my own exhausting and relentless irony) Here Lyotard asks 'how to live and why?' Good questions, 99.
About Pam Brown. Back to directory.
Margaret Anderson, ed. | The Little Review Anthology | Hermitage House | 1953
Dan Beachy-Quick | Mulberry | Tupelo | 2006
Cathy Eisenhower | April in the Pink Sewer | [the interrupting cow] | 
Harry Mathews | 20 Lines a Day | Dalkey Archive | 1988
Rachel Moritz | The Winchester Monologues | New Michigan | 2005
Juliet Patterson | The Truant Lover | Nightboat | 2006
Janet Rodney | Moon on an Oar Blade Rowing | First Intensity | 2005
Erica Van Horn | Some Words From That Letter | [unique artists' book] | 
Elizabeth Willis | Meteoric Flowers | Wesleyan | 2006
About Nancy Kuhl. Back to directory.
Giorgio Caproni | L'Opera in Versi, ed. Luca Zuliani | Mondadori | 1998
Caproni has all the complexity and all the artifice of Dickinson or Celan, and shares with those two poets a fascination with existential dilemmas. The difference is partly tonal, partly historical: neither anxious nor indignant, but bemused, and even amused, Caproni was born before World War One, and died just after Italy's "Years of Lead." Perseverance is one of his defining traits; futility, his greatest theme. Using words like nets to drag for meaning, his poems are most distinguished, not for what they catch, and not for the skill with which they are woven, but for the pleasure they afford when the nets are raised and water rushes back into the sea.
Tim Davis | My Life in Politics | Aperture | 2006
While retaining their beauty as photographs, these images lay bare the meanness of American political life: the rudeness of its imagination, the blankness of its principal sites, the deficiency of its underlying forms. The captions, relegated to the back, are—for this logocentric viewer—equally exquisite: caustic as a chemical bath, they dissolve uplifting rhetoric as if it were a Hollywood skin, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger's human face in the first Terminator administration.
Jacques Derrida | various late texts
It is humbling to read Derrida's late work, which, two years after his death, still appears at regular intervals: erudite, beautifully written, richly conceived, various in topic, the products of a lifetime of study, yet composed, seemingly, at lightning speed, without letup. I've hardly been able to sample more than a few moments, almost at random—his comments on materiality in Without Alibi (2002); his meditations on place in Counterpath (2004); his improvisations on animal rights and the death penalty in For What Tomorrow... (2004); his remarks on reason in Rogues (2005), and testimony in Sovereignties in Question (2005)—but these confirm my sense that Derrida is a philosopher best read backwards; that his later words on a topic are, with few exceptions, more profound, better articulated, and freer from distracting polemics than the first. For me, he represents—like Robert Creeley in poetry—more than just a body of work, but also the very measure of what work might be.
Roy Fisher | The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 | Bloodaxe | 2005
It seems these days that "New York School" has become a default setting for poetic style: a light heart, ideas pitched at conversational frequency, energizing detours through nonsense—what's not to like? But "likability" is not a very high standard, which is one reason more marginal and even more dubious approaches to writing can be so appealing. To be serious, even earnest; to develop purpose and not just ideas; to construct paths for thought, even in one's detours...these are traits and desires that yield failure so often, one might easily think that failure is their aim. But one does, after so much likability, want more, even at peril of receiving less. Which is why Roy Fisher's poems are so miraculous. Purposeful, attentive, discriminating—untempted by eloquence, loftiness, dazzle—they succeed again and again in a most unlikely task, rewarding the careful readings they require yet refuse to seduce.
Drew Gardner | Petroleum Hat | Roof | 2005
The world has little use for poets, and none for their opinion, hence the need to develop a little attitude—a kind of tax on the spirit, enough to levy war on the real. And why go to all that trouble? Because, as the song says, "chicks dig it."
Alda Merini, trans. Carla Billitteri | I Am a Furious Little Bee | unpublished ms.
Merini's aphorisms are—like Bernadette Mayer's epigrams—weightless, quick-moving, and dark: the whimsical shadow of a restless, self-dramatizing poet who cannot help but monopolize our attention. Gaudy, fascinating, egotistical, a little bullying but capable of grace, she wears out her welcome as a matter of principle: "TO MISTAKE shit for chocolate is a privilege of the overeducated."—"THERE are those who masturbate so as not to lose their sense of direction."—"THE EGO is as deep as light, but always points toward the bottom."—"KNOCK and the door will be shut."
Sharon Mesmer | Four Poems, Flarf Festival 06 | You Tube link
This year flarf went from funny-stupid to stupid-serious to serious-important to important-beleaguered to beleaguered-irritating to irritating-recalcitrant to recalcitrant-stupid to stupid-funny, which is not quite full circle since flarf began the year funny-haha and ended funny-fishy. But through it all, or, I dunno, part of it, there was Sharon Mesmer's "Annoying Diabetic Bitch," a poem that launched itself beyond commentary Evel-Knievel fashion—for thrills, fun, attention, fame, a payday, whatever. There oughta be a name for poetry like that...
Eliza Richards | Gender and the Poetics of Reception in Poe's Circle | Cambridge | 2004
An unexpected but welcome variation on Juliana Spahr's notion of "connective" reading, one that explores the production of meaning as a matter of mimetic effects disseminated within particular communities, not patterns of consumption generated by particular texts. A reminder, also, that "Poe" is the black hole of American lit—a site of uncommon density where ideas of authorship, autonomy, originality, and intellectual property collapse, dragging with them everything that comes near. In this case, everything being three women poets: Frances Sargent Osgood, Sarah Helen Whitman, Elizabeth Oakes Smith.
Stephen Rodefer | Sublangerie | unpublished ms.
Nearly two hundred years ago, McDonald Clarke, "the mad poet of Broadway," wrote his long, strange poem Afara, self-published in four or five installments. Forgotten now, Clarke was reasonably well-known in his own day. Mocked by some, regarded by others with affection, his death was noted by Lydia Maria Child and covered in the New York press by Walter Whitman. Yet Afara has never been published in a single volume, and some of its installments only survive in a few rare copies. A better fate surely awaits Sublangerie, a long, strange poem as mad in its harangues as the equally free-associational Afara, but crafted with the canniness of William Carlos Williams (who supplies the poem with its basic form). It may be a masterpiece on the order of Blake's prophetic books; it may be a grand curiosity on the order of Afara. But either way, it deserves a wider audience.
Kim Rosenfield | Tráma | Krupskaya | 2004
For me this was a year of depressed, distracted, and promiscuous reading. When low, I surrendered to science fiction novels and thrillers; when restless, I twisted from book to book—leaving stacks beside my bed like pillows that fell over in the night; when seeking information, I read with calculated partiality (the history of Christian doctrine? civil war memoirs? it's all good...all easily skimmed...all quickly forgotten). Weirdly enough, the one book in which all my dodgy study seemed to coalesce was Tráma, perhaps because the source text, Pinocchio, is at once a fairy tale, Dickensian horror show, and version of the Gospels (one in which Christ is exposed as a liar). I can't say I understand the end result; reading Tráma is like falling awake in the midst of a bedtime story—having lost the drift and forgotten all the names. What remains, above all: the intensity of one's waking moment, magnified by anxiety over disconnection.
Horace Traubel | With Walt Whitman in Camden, 9 volumes (five currently available) | electronic edition 2005
The most touching, wide-ranging, extensive, and perhaps even significant work of poetics in English is also the most unknown—at least, I've have never met anyone who's tried to read it. Transcribed from Traubel's handwritten notes, the nine volumes (six of them prepared after Traubel's death, the last in 1996) cover the last ten years of Whitman's life—5,000 pages total, a truly mind-boggling effort. For many years, I've used these books as a reference tool, looking up particular topics in the index. But now that I'm trying to read them chronologically (in fits and starts, to be sure), I see that there is drama to the story as well. The online version is maddening in its structure—there are no links for individual entries, or even volumes—but it is very good to know that the material is all there (or will be), especially since the long gaps between printed installments have meant that many libraries lack complete sets.
Recusing myself: Greg Biglieri, Sleepy with Democracy (Cuneiform, 2006); Robert Creeley, On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay (California, 2006); Alan Gilbert, Another Future: Poetry And Art in a Postmodern Twilight (Wesleyan , 2006); Rodney Koeneke, Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006); Floriana Puglisi, Transgressing Boundaries: A Geography of Anne Sexton's Spirituality (Otto Editore, 2006); Lisa Robertson, The Men (BookThug, 2006).
About Benjamin Friedlander. Back to directory.
Stephanie Young | Telling the Future Off | Tougher Disguises | 2005
CHOKER: candy hearts on tight elastic or one who places hands around throats to block air? Poems that float on that either/or, like Yahweh above the waters, shining and frightening by turns, edged as the self-help slogans they're named for. A "lemony beating" I did not a thing to prevent.
Gary Sullivan | Elsewhere #2 | self-published | 2006
Two-way excursion through the neon of cultural misprision; return ticket gets you Nada Gordon beautifully diasporizing O'Hara. Indelible doum doum tek for ear and eye. I want my Elsewhere 3!
Joanna Fuhrman | Moraine | Hanging Loose | 2006
Poet swallows all of New York and half the new century's cable channels to drag poetry glacier one half inch over, unblocking sun. Were I not Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes.
Shanna Compton | Down Spooky | Winnow | 2006
Because "father never did possess/any ecclesiastical spacecraft," I keep wondering at the algebra behind Compton's jiffy rockets, where home is the orbit you're leaving but with the fridge half-cracked for summer guests.
Drew Gardner | Petroleum Hat | Roof | 2006
Mods the game your folks called post-avant, puts John Denver faces on the enemy borgs and makes them jump to new hopscotch. Pure crude's seeping out of this homburg and isn't it finally delicious? And haven't we earned a little deliciousness?
Elizabeth Treadwell | Chantry | Chax | 2005
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang, subdivided into pachinko palaces where nouns can bounce any direction, generally right in the lotus. "The generations changed too quickly & the children began to turn out all weird & bitter."
David Larsen | The Thorn | Faux | 2005
I keep circling back to THE THORN like a dog returns to its vomit, only I wish it was my vomit, because it'd mean I'd been eating poems like "(Sorry That I Had 2 Freak U) SO HARD" and learning to draw with Sharpies to boot. Left theory at the door and found signifiers car-keyed into my Hyundai outside. "If love is to have any meaning / let it be through me!"
Michael Magee | Mainstream | BlazeVOX | 2006
Language can be like a hose if you want, here Magee turns its stream full-force on pretension, fairytale fascism, and lazy ideology in all its slick guises. Hymns for a broken polis, urging hope via sheer verbal glee. "Wipe your stigmata on my pantisocracy."
Brent Cunningham | Bird & Forest | Ugly Duckling | 2005
Poetry bird in philosophy forest: swallow, be lyric in the forum. It's 2006 and theory's remembered to be pretty, even funny, humble enough to tuck itself up into fable. Sparrowhawks, ma'am, against the prevailing gloom. "I desired to speak however my heart wished. / And now look: maybe it wasn't a great idea." O yes it was.
Dana Ward | New Couriers | Dusie | 2006
Sometimes "goodness is alkaline," like a hit parade eating through other people's dreams. Ward's approach to the lyric is like that, beauty as a stand-in for ice cream but with stomachaches left in. My legs couldn't move after these poems, two drained batteries.
Taylor Brady | Yesterday's News | Factory School | 2005
"An impossible mix of cheese and value-added research products" spattered inside late capital's microwave. Dialectics built from the republic's malfeasance, where what you have is what will do. Don't neglect thickness.
Parker Zane Allen | Dating Tips With The Gangland Massacre Of The Heart | small town | 2006
I didn't know Parker Zane Allen, but I got this chapbook after his death this year in San Francisco at age 26 and it's sad to see how much we'll miss. These wry portraits of love in its messy permutations balance ardor with a writerly sense of distance, that step back you need to frame experience as a scene and make room for humor. It's wrong that he's not here to read this.
More Rodney Koeneke. Back to directory.
Neil Young | On the Beach | Reprise | 1974
Neil Young | Comes a Time | Reprise | 1978
Stephen Rodefer | The Bell Clerk's Tears Keep Flowing | The Figures | 1978
Scrawl | Velvet Hammer | Simple Machines | 1993
Ishmael Reed | Blues City: A Walk in Oakland | Crown Books | 2003
The Homosexuals | Astral Glamour | Morphius Records | 2004
Alex van der Tuuk | Paramount's Rise and Fall: A History of the Wisconsin Chair Company and Its Recording Activities | Mainspring | 2004
Pam Rehm | Small Works | Flood | 2005
Xiu Xiu | Life and Live | Xeng | 2005
Don DeLillo | Love-Lies-Bleeding | Scribner's | 2006
Noelle Kocot | Poem for the End of Time and Other Poems | Wave | 2006About Graham Foust. Back to directory.
Ted Berrigan | The Collected Poems, ed. Alice Notley with Anselm Berrigan and Edmund Berrigan | California | 2005
Robert S. Boyton | The New New Journalism | Vintage | 2005
Catallus, trans. Peter Green | The Poems of Catallus | California | 2005
Joshua Clover | The Totality for Kids | California | 2006
Peter Gizzi | A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me | Ugly Duckling | 2006
Emmanuel Hocquard | Les Élégies | P.O.L. | 1990
Nathaniel Mackey | Splay Anthem | New Directions | 2006
Nathaniel Mackey | Paracritical Hinge | Wisconsin | 2005
Nathaniel Mackey | Strick: Songs of the Andomboulou 16-25 | Spoken Engine Co. | 1995
Elizabeth Willis | Meteoric Flowers | Wesleyan | 2006
About John Palattella. Back to directory.
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge | I Love Artists| California | 2006
Steve Carey | 20 Poems (1987) | Open 24 Hours | 2006 reprint
Tom Clark | Light & Shade | Coffee House | 2006
Joshua Clover | The Totality for Kids | California| 2006
Maureen Owen | Erosion's Pull | Coffee House | 2006
Christopher Nealon | The Joyous Age |Black Square | 2004
Drew Gardner | Petroleum Hat | Roof | 2005
Matt Hart | Who's Who Vivid | Slope |2006
Laurie Simmons | Waking, Talking, Lying | Aperture | 2005
Rick Snyder | Paper Poem | Dusie | 2006
About Joanna Fuhrman. Back to directory.
Caroline Bergvall | Fig | Salt | 2005
Goan Atom 2. "Here in the sense of being. / To have my fig / be a fig in the world / and all that moves accordingly."
Gregory Betts | If Language | BookThug | 2005
Fifty-six anagrams of the 525 letters of a Steve McCaffery quote. "Languages produce emotional resonance, trigger a cognitive dissonance, elicit cortical responses that must be called a signal-field."
Arkadii Dragomoshchenko | Chinese Sun | Ugly Duckling | 2005
"Remembrance is direct speech raised to the power of interminable obliqueness."
Allen Fisher | Place | Reality Street | 2005
A rather massive assemblage from the 70s and early 80s of the collected books of PLACE. "the boundary of the world / the aura of the body / following edges that change in space."
Alan Halsey | Not Everything Remotely | Salt | 2006
Another large selection of work (from 1980 to 2005). "violence of / numbers, the flower, if any, / of these times we read of. Everything was policy." <http://firstname.lastname@example.org/bardo.htm>
Nathaniel Mackey | Splay Anthem | New Directions | 2006
"as / andoumboulouous as / ever. We were the ground / he said was as it was before, / runaway buzz, bud, bush, / boat, book..."
Geraldine Monk | Escafeld Hangings | West House | 2005
The imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, in Sheffield (Escafeld) from 1570 to 1584 is the focus. "This IS no AGE to be IN sane IN. // Madness is all the rage. // Nobility drop like blossoms / into soft-brained / heaven." <http://email@example.com/monk.htm>
a.rawlings | Wide slumber for lepidopterists | Coach House | 2006
"sleep or silk. ilken sleep of slumberflies' shantung nd tussah lungs. thick sheets of lungs. each complexhale slo-mo. hypervocal verberate." <http://firstname.lastname@example.org/rawlings.htm>
Lisa Robertson | The Men | BookThug | 2006
"What I'm feeling is the seizure of language in newness then, the absolute strangeness of their kind."
Brian Kim Stefans | What is Said to the Poet Concerning Flowers | Factory School | 2006
"Williams would have loved him, just as likely Pound, Zukofsky, and Marianne / Moore, his neighbor, but for us he's Ashbery-meets Gibson (William, / not Mel), Philip K. Dick channeling Spicerian Lenny Bruce through old coffee radio / of insomniac Chomskyite nites"
Diane Ward | Flim-Yoked Scrim | Factory School | 2006
"it's a picture of a spindle and a level, both hidden by a coating of fear / someone's coil will light upon another's spiral." <http://email@example.com/ward.htm>
To the Alterran Poetry Assemblage. Back to directory.
Robin Blaser | The Fire: Collected Essays | California | 2006
Long awaited, now scrupulously and exactly edited by Miriam Nichols, these really stunning and recursively patterned essays (some of them challenging, all of them extraordinary) came out just in time (late August) to make this issue of Attention Span: The title essay, along with "Particles," is worth double the admission price and should possibly be required reading; the eight essays on poetics which start the book open up the difficult and important territory of poetry's essential relations to philosophy and politics. Then eleven Commentaries, stuff you never knew or had forgotten: an important retrieval of Mary Butts (remember her? if not, go read her), a major assessment and re-placement of Louis Dudek (if you thought you knew his work, read this and find out how little of it you knew). An impressive range of moving, funny, angry, and loving essays ranging through philosophy to writing, painting, music: Spicer, Duncan, Olson, Dikeakos, Bach. And others. Not a word wasted in this book, filled as it is with thought for and of a lifetime. Miriam Nichols's thirty-page commentary on the essays—and thus on Blaser's "place" in contemporary poetics—is a really useful bonus, and the whole book showed and still shows me how much I have to learn. The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser is possibly the most necessary book in poetics I'll get this decade, let alone this year, and will in November be joined by Blaser's The Holy Forest: Collected Poems, also from California. The exemplary scholar-poet.
John Yau | Paradiso Diaspora| Penguin | 2006
The poems fulfil the promise of the wit in the title, troubled and troubling, the hyphenated life, yet there's a tremendously strong current of exhilaration running through the book's more-or-less dolorous air as it dwells in and on the confusions anguishes and comedies of that life, and its consolations and delights. There's a wonderful inconsequentiality-generating-its-own-consequence in so many of these poems—"The children like to keep spiders in their biscuits. / It is why I never eat bread while playing the piano" rattles around in my head still, There is amazing great good humour throughout this book, its playfulness, and some of it (the book, and the good humour) is simply hilarious—"Don't Get Too Personal" for starters. Yau takes a variety of risks, as in the wonderful second section, the songs after that astonishing small human Cerise, and the wonderful delicate tenderness of "Conversation After Midnight." Overall this lovely book is so accepting of its condition, thoughtful, by no means acquiescent, no, but turning always toward use. If Yau's a Romantic, he's not exactly wholly disillusioned, there's a faith and hope in here, as well as love.
Meredith Quartermain | Vancouver Walking | NewWest | 2005
My view of this book is prejudiced, of course, but it did win the British Columbia Poetry Prize for 2005, so I guess I can't be completely up a tree. One reason I like these poems is because in their careful folding of history into place they show how to read an urban landscape. They also, and this is another reason, have an informed and sharp political edge, but the writing, the syntax, prevents any final exhaustion of reference, so the politics stays fresh. If you don't know any history (Canadian, British, US) then you might find yourself looking a few things up (I guess not everyone on this continent knows about the Crimean War, say), but the poems are accessible whether you do or don't (and a little outside reading never does any harm, hey?). Wit, feeling; intelligence with a clear and ironic eye, with a shift to a train in the final section, which moves down the Pacific coast and across to Colorado.
Rosmarie Waldrop | Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès | Wesleyan | 2002
I read Waldrop's unexpectedly-exhilarating book two or three years back, when it came out, and picked it up again a month ago. "What is a writer? What is a Jew?" (Waldrop quotes Jabès, Le Parcours); "Neither Jew nor writer has any self-image to brandish. 'They are the book.'" Difficult ideas, a range of complex feeling. Lavish Absence is unquestionably the best possible introduction to Jabès (if you need one) and commentary on him (if you think you don't). The difficult condition of all human life in this century: exile, desert, city; place, non-place. A desert of signs "from which one cannot . . . be expulsed." A major source-book for Jabès, alongside From the Desert to the Book, Marcel Cohen's dialogues with Jabès (Station Hill, 1990), where you read "To write means clearing the table of all knowledge . . . no knowledge, no certainty, can remain in the face of writing. It is, however, on the field of writing that culture leans." Full of news about poetics, Lavish Absence follows a poet, conversing with another poet in person and in thought, as she clarifies. The book is as much a door into Waldrop as into Jabès: "Translating him becomes a way of 'writing' what I cannot write." And it draws you as would a satisfyingly open-ended poem.
Robert Creeley | On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay | California | 2006
Reprints Creeley's great essay on Whitman that came out in the Virginia Quarterly Review (81.2, 2005)—if you can still get that issue, get it, it's got some terrific stuff in it (such as Sam Hamill's angry and pertinent piece, and Ed Folsom's dismayed piece ("It is astonishing how our national poet keeps re-emerging at key points in the terms of Presidents . . ."). Creeley's is a meditation on old age, on aging, and it's a loving as well as eye-opening pointer. Maybe it's because, well, I'm getting a little old myself nowadays, but Creeley utterly refutes the notion—as he puts it—"that Whitman's poems faded as he grew older, that their art grew more mechanical," and then shows, in this extraordinary, attentive and tender look at loss ("Good-bye my fancy") and discovery ("an ample and far-reaching prospect") just how essential Whitman is, how we can ill-afford to forget him in these parlous times, devoted as they are to the rightness of abstraction. Not that that is an argumentative thread, it's just there, present. And the poems pursue the themes of the last two books—Creeley has written the best poems about aging that I know: always aware of the body and the mind and how interlocked they are, always interested in the processes. Whatever else happens in this book, feeling is always to the fore, and always thoroughly grounded. Amazed and amazing love.
Douglas Oliver | Whisper 'Louise': A Double Historical Memoir and Meditation | Reality Street | 2005
The late poet, journalist, and teacher Doug Oliver's meditation on his own life and writing as informed by "Louise"—she's Louise Michel (1830-1905), the (dare I say celebrated?) famous French anarchist and revolutionary, prominent on the barricades of the 1871 Commune, political prisoner exiled to New Caledonia for seven years after 20 months in jail, in and out of jail thereafter, poet and teacher, indefatigable. Oliver's done his homework, trolling Parisian and other libraries for manuscript as well as rare printed sources, and intimately knows the histories of modern France and Britain. He's good on the ways they connect to current political affairs both sides of the Atlantic, and exposes the prevalence of what he calls "charlatan thinking" in contemporary UK and US politics. He explores and discusses his own poetry and that of his contemporaries, and carefully considers the role and effects of violence and non-violence in politics and in daily life. Henry James would have called this long book—over 400 pages—a loose baggy monster; it's a slow and thoroughly rewarding read. It's a keeper; I know I'll come back to it more than once down the road.
Charles Baudelaire, trans. Keith Waldrop | The Flowers of Evil | Wesleyan | 2006
Keith Waldrop is a seasoned translator and this wonderful fresh version of Baudelaire is clearly a labour of love—but it's not in the least laboured. "The choice that is not available," observes Waldrop in his very useful introduction, is 'in the original meters,' and these versions "lean on the verset, a measured prose that allows the sentence to dominate, . . . checked by a sense of the line that restricts it." It also keeps the ironic flow going, and lets the dark humour through—emphasis here on humour: "Baudelaire's sense of humor does not cancel out seriousness." Lively and indeed wit-ful translations of all the poems in Les Fleurs du Mal, including the six banned in 1857 and then permitted in 1949. with a few discreet and perhaps necessary footnotes clarifying references and the like. The publisher's blurb calls this book "A modernist classic translated for the twenty-first century." It's probably right. In many ways it's like reading Baudelaire for the first time. At the moment—and for a while to come—this book sits bed-side; it's not exactly soothing, but its oddly intimate voice affords great pleasure.
Jean-Paul Bourdier and Trinh T. Minh-ha | African Spaces: Designs for Living in Upper Volta [i.e. Burkina Faso] | Africana Publishing | 1985
I come back to this book every so often, this year something like my fourth time. In my mind (and on the bookshelf) it stands alongside Bernard Rudofsky's more celebrated Architecture Without Architects as a source of materials and work arising outside feudal or capitalist culture and otherwise lost to us. African Spaces looks at how the roads, and the rise of market-place economies they brought with them, profoundly affected not just Gurunsi village organisation and architecture and the organisation of space but also the means, modes and conduct of daily life in all its aspects. Not in the least nostalgic or envious, it is both a detailed study of Gurunsi vernacular architecture and a study of the ways in which even those who ferociously reject all forms of external domination finally succumb to market-driven materialist forces. Copiously illustrated, offering genuine and apparently viable alternatives to what loosely is called the western tradition, and full of news.
Charles C. Mann | 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus | Knopf | 2005
An eye-opener. Tells us not just what we've lost, but also what we can regain—provided we keep a compassionate informed eye on ourselves and others, and pay attention to what we simply don't know. Turns any Eurocentric view of the world—or corporate-capitalist view of the good life—on its head: the aboriginal Americas were as much the cradle of civilisation as was Sumer. This is a page-turner, original, quite brilliant, and full of necessary news—a terrific supplement to and enlargement of Gordon Brotherston's Book of the Fourth World: Reading the Native Americas Through Their Literature (1992). A book to keep lending (or giving) people.
David Mitchell | Cloud Atlas, A Novel | Vintage Canada | 2004
What an intelligent book this is, how beautifully written, what a great read, hard to put down. It consists of six narratives, each except the middle one interrupted and broken by the next only to be picked up in reverse order, 12345654321. This nested structure feeds the play of echo and theme brilliantly to make a wonderfully tight and satisfactory structure and a finally open-ended work. "Corpocracy," Mitchell's wonderfully apt coinage, so intimately linking Death with the rule of Corporate Capitalism as it does, encapsulates the major thread of this funny, gripping, sad and angry novel, an oddly hopeful and affirmative yet gloomy diagnosis of these our monstrous times.
Paolo Javier | 60 lv bo(e)mbs | O | 2005
Jazzy cross-cultural and cross-linguistic English /Tagalog riffs full of echoes of writers you know and (no doubt) writers you don't, by turns sardonic and tender, angry and pained, mirthful, affectionate, loving, there's a lot of intelligence here (in all senses of intelligence). Astonishing energy in this young and somewhat uneven book, sometimes a little too punny, sometimes too fast (in most senses of fast). Stretches that I still don't get, no matter how hard I try—but then, why try? Just hold on to your hat and enjoy these bumpy rides.
About Peter Quartermain. Back to directory.
David Abram | The Spell Of The Sensuous | Vintage |1996
Landmark eco-critical study of Greek (and other) nature religions.
Sally Ball | Annus Mirabilils | Barrow Street | 2006
Debut volume of poems on Leibniz and origins of the so-called "human" sciences.
Robert Duncan | Ground Work: Before The War/In The Dark | New Directions | 2006
The admission of Pan and his retinue into Hermes' ken comes to seem, like the work in translation, of a piece.
Jerry Harp | Gatherings | Ashland | 2004
The portraiture, here, as in Harp's debut, Creature (Salt, 2004) is very midwestern, notably so. From "Staying At The Poet's House:" "I take books off the shelf / And open them at random. // Sometimes a foreign voice / Emits from my throat."
James Hillman | An Essay On Pan | Switzerland | 1972
A work of creative imagination.
Richard Hunter, ed. | Theocritus: A Selection | Cambridge, U.K. | 1999
Working with Hunter's terrific notes to this new setting of the Doric Greek (mid-third century B.C.E.), it's possible, even appealing, to translate.
Lisa Jarnot | The Iliad: Book XXII | Atticus Finch Chapbooks | 2006
Gorgeous book, appealing translation.
Franklin Lewis | Rumi Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi | Oneworld | 2000
Thanks to Peter O'Leary for recommending this, really four books in one: biography/genetic study/translation of 50-odd lyrics/reception study. For now, the Rumi almanac.
Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, trans. from the Persian by A.J. Arberry | Tales From The Masnavi | Volumes One and Two | Allen & Unwin | 1961
There are three pillars to Rumi's work, an oeurve comparable to Dante's in magnificence: The lyrics, the sermons, and the Tales. Incredibly, this forty year old set of books is about one-tenth of what's there in just the Tales, ready for the translating.
Michael Sells | Stations Of Desire: Love Elegies From Ibn 'Arabi and New Poems | Ibis | 2000
Sells is modest: all but 21 pages of this little 147 pp. book are his translations from the Arabic of Muhyiddin Ibn Al-'Arabi's twelth century lyrics. Sells's own lyrics have some of the quality of the genius he's translating elsewhere in the volume. The translation situation for this master is even worse than it is for Rumi!
Jeff Hamilton on Robert Duncan and Laura Riding. Back to directory.