Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Seeking reviewers for

Michael Davidson, Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics (Chicago)
Fanny Howe, The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life (California)
Gary Lutz, I Looked Alive (Black Square)
David Markson, Vanishing Point (Shoemaker Hoard)
Murat Nemet-Nejat (editor), EDA: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry (Talisman)
Prageeta Sharma, The Opening Question (Fence)
Liz Waldner, Saving the Appearances (Ahsahta)
David Foster Wallace, Oblivion (Little, Brown)

If interested in reviewing one of these books, please contact Brian Henry at bhenr [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Coming tomorrow to the Verse site: a new poem sequence by Ray DiPalma.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Featured back issue: June 22-29

The Arielle Greenberg, Stephen Healey, Dara Wier, Peter Ramos and Matthea Harvey poems, plus the Rosmarie Waldrop, Cort Day, Calyx, and Kenneth Koch reviews, are in Volume 18, Numbers 2/3 (2001) of Verse.

Other contributors to this issue include Coleman Barks, Josh Bell, Kate Clanchy, Gillian Conoley, Joshua Corey, Timothy Donnelly, Vona Groarke, Christine Hume, Henri Israeli, L.S. Klatt, Caroline Knox, Kevin Larimer, Timothy Liu, Malinda Markham, Peter Minter, Don Paterson, Simon Perchik, Claudia Rankine, Peter Richards, David Roderick, Tessa Rumsey, Fiona Sampson, Robyn Schiff, Eleni Sikelianos, Ales Steger, Jesper Svenbro, Karen Volkman, Diane Wald, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, and William D Waltz.

There also are interviews with Claudia Rankine and Conor O'Callaghan, and reviews of 22 books, including The Tablets by Armand Schwerner, Louise in Love by Mary Jo Bang, Isolato by Larissa Szporluk, Republics of Reality by Charles Bernstein, Civilian Histories by Lee Upton, Pages by John Matthias, Feast and A Ballad for Metka Krasovec by Tomaz Salamun, and Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry edited by Timothy Liu.

To order this issue, send a check for $6 with a note to Verse, Dept of English, Univ of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. The original cover price was $9. The issue is 240 pages long.

Review of Kenneth Koch's New Addresses

New Addresses by Kenneth Koch. Alfred A. Knopf, $23.

Reviewed by Michel Delville

Kenneth Koch’s new collection undertakes a systematic exploration of the most important events and cultural forces that have determined the course of the poet’s life and career. Like Whitman, who addressed drops of water and smoke rising from buildings, and, more recently, Koch’s friend Frank O’Hara before him, Koch adopts the "address" form, a form of apostrophe in which he addresses a variety of objects, ideas, and past experiences ranging from his twenties, marijuana, and city life to tiredness, fame, and old age. Koch’s poems have the immediacy of personal content and leave us with a sense that each poem is testing the powers of poetry to draw us into unexpected corners of the poet’s life in a way that is freed of preconception and expectation.

Throughout the book, Koch also affirms his intention to write not for art’s sake but for the sake of remembering ideals and forms of experience writing can serve. Reflecting on his New York School years in a poem entitled "To Some Abstract Paintings," he comments that the aesthetics of abstract expressionism held the promise of "a meaning inside the meaning / That surpassed the meaning or would even come up with a new one / That everyone would see." Even though the author’s experience of abstractionism does not seem to have fully lived up to this project, Koch remains grateful to an art that taught him "how to develop / a certain kind of elation to non-objects," a statement that accounts for Koch’s gradual move away from the abstract and evocative linguistic experimentalism of his early years towards a type of lyricism that favors a more transparent form and a (deceptively) simple, straightforward diction.

Jewishness is the subject of three poems contained in New Addresses. In one of the most successful pieces of the collection, Koch explains that the influence of Jewishness and Judaism on his life was similar to that of poetry in that it rescued him from "the flatness of [his] life" by "[giving] ceremony / To everyday things, surprise and / Symbolism and things beyond / Understanding." Other, more obvious determining forces on Koch’s development as a poet include his experience as an infantryman in World War II ("I kept thinking of lines of poetry. One that came to me / On the beach in Leyte / Was 'The surf comes in like masochistic lions.' / I loved this terrible line. It was keeping me alive") and psychoanalysis ("You gave me an ideal / Of conversation--entirely about me / But including almost everything else in the world. / But this wasn’t poetry it was something else").

Central to Koch’s poems is an awareness of the incomprehensible mystery that presides to a life "famous for being horrible, wonderful, irreplaceable." As the poem "To Yes," the opening piece of the collection, recognizes, poetry grows out of a recognition that the world remains unknown, possibly even unknowable, but nonetheless deserves to be investigated in a way that celebrates the urges of the mind and body to collaborate on a process favoring self-reflexive analysis while seeking to avoid the traps of egocentric talk. New Addresses leaves us with a sense that poetry is there to help us see even the unknown in a new light:

... Am I a yes
To be posed in the face of a negative alternative?
Or has the sky taken away from me its ultimate guess
About how probably everything is going to be eventually terrible
Which is something we knew all along, being modified by a yes
When what we want is obvious but has a brilliantly shining trail
Of stars. Or are those asterisks? Yes.


From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2 & 3 (2001). All rights reserved. For more information about this issue, see Arielle Greenberg's poem below.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Matthea Harvey poem

Matthea Harvey

SAD LITTLE BREATHING MACHINE

Engine:@


Under its glass lid, the square
of cheese is like any other element

of the imagination--cough in the tugboat,
muff summering somewhere in mothballs.

Have a humbug. The world is slow
to dissolve & leave us. Is it your

hermeneut's helmet not letting me
filter through? The submarine sinks

with a purpose: Scientist Inside
Engineering A Shell. & meanwhile

I am not well. Don't know how to go on
Oprah without ya. On t.v, a documentary

about bees--yet another box in a box.
The present is in there somewhere.

From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2 & 3 (2001). All rights reserved. For more information about this issue, see Arielle Greenberg's poem below.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Review of Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets

Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets, edited by Michael Brennan and Peter Minter. Paper Bark Press, $21.

Reviewed by Ethan Paquin

A colleague, reviewing this collection for another journal, remarked in a recent conversation on his belief that Australian poetry was languishing in "amateurish" hands. Conceding the work of Peter Boyle "had moments," his protestation shifted to the "experimental" work of Javant Biarujia, Geraldine McKenzie, and others, none of whom lived up to his standards of "high quality" verse. Then, the realization: just what feeds these tired standards, and what will it take to move on past the influence of the Old School? Can we understand that testing the bounds of expression is not an act confined to, or reserved for, the great yet past-their-prime bards (pick one, any one, from America or elsewhere), writers who have perhaps overstayed their welcome because they’ve instilled the unfortunate public belief that further exploration of language and self are out of the question--or worse, "amateurish"?

If some American readers, thinkers, and writers have trouble with staking new ground, why don’t the 30 younger Australian poets in Calyx? Though they can surely smell, and are probably saturated with, the pervasive grease that is the literary United States--with its bored, waxy compound of theoretical explanations and categorizations, e.g. "Post-Post-Modern Sensibilities" and "Elliptical Poets"--it’s not apparent in this anthology. The overall impression Calyx provides, however accurate or not, is one of a community of poets writing so urgently and fervently they dare cross the Ashbery Boundary--a place where envelopes are not only pushed to the table’s precarious edge, but are folded into hundreds of diving, swirling paper airplanes, propelled by political, national, and geographical issues in a way unique from any other nation. Turning to poets like those Brennan and Minter have selected may not provide our salvation, but possibly something just as valuable: a recognizance and reaffirmation of what it means to retreat into our souls, to question the mechanisms of the word and spirit, to acknowledge humor and suffering and humiliation and distress and joy and do it as it’s not already been done countless times. Michael Farrell aptly starts this ball rolling in his poem "John Ashbery Impersonator." For all its implications, it’s a tender study of a poetry festival onlooker who hides behind bushes, trying to glimpse the man we gather is his personal hero; "i noted everything he said to use later in / a poem in which the silent changes might / occur," we are told, only to discover by turns that such a process turns young, earnest poets like himself into "monolingual ventriloquists." This one-note droning, this copy-cat act of hiding behind the tried-and-true tonal affectations and storytelling of those who’ve written before us--resulting in assembly-line and carbon-copy verse--simply does not appear in Calyx.

Inside there is a peculiar brand of Australian duende that echoes hauntingly, lusciously. It’s felt across the stylistic board: sprawling, avant-garde gems rest comfortably and naturally next to quiet pensum; clearly, the editorial work is as thoughtful as the poetry within. Particularly magnetizing are the seldom-heard (in America, at least) voices of Luke Davies, Susan Bowers, and Kirsten Tranter. Davies’s cyclical conundrums fascinate--"In the landscape / the flesh & // when the flesh is gone / the landscape," from "History of Violence"--and he can strike the right grave tone ("There are older agonies / than churches"), though one wishes the sentimentalism of abstract moments like "The infinite sadness of finite joys / in the season of rain and death // when the magpies sing" packed more visceral and less aethereal heft. Still, it’s hard to find fault with his deft, eerie homage to Stevens, "Passage of Time," a three-part suite examining the "humility of journeys" through the eyes of a hawk:

Always the rat between us and the great rest.

Always the dark shadow of a greater hawk
looming above us and blocking the sky:
oh father with your sparrow bones, death
descends on you and that’s your day.


Bowers’s poems are spare, straightforward, and unexpected. They remind of Holub’s assertion that "poetry is not only about using the senses and the sensitivity and the sensibility but ... using the plain human mind in the way a plain human being is using it while crossing the street." Indeed. But they approach as if a mist that hints of something forgotten or overlooked:

Farms are never by the sea
but this one was.
There was a farmhouse
of course
because farms without
people
makes no sense.
("Little Red Jelly")


Bowers, like Farrell, gets her jabs in at bloated Americana in "Triptych," examining "Marilyn," "Marlon," and "Elvis" ("I’ll pretend that I’m / in a film with you / while you’re cutting / a bullet out of my leg"). Another long poem, "Space and Technology Series," sounds as if written by a proselyte to techno-speak, to the wonder and fright of scientific creations; the innocent, reverent, and wide-eyed voice within is alarmingly sexy ("When the earth was flat / we could have walked forever, / picking intense cornflowers, / but I know the earth is round / because I see it reflected in your helmet. / And so the cornflowers are obsolete now / and instead we exchange moon- rocks"). Tranter, too, has an ear for the sumptuous and the sensory, for the disjunctive and emotive, and an inner eye for Matisse-like scenery:

Her yellow dress stands still in the heat
The couch is covered in roses in a tapestry
while your letter shows scorched on my hands
It rises, it gathers itself
with a growl, something like jealous
("Her Yellow Dress")


Biarujia, Arthur Spyrou, and James Taylor, the most structurally challenging and innovative in Calyx, certainly deal in organic rather than lyric form, recalling Zukofsky’s proclivity for "sight, sound, and intellection" in their greatly wild, messy, stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Biarujia is as comfortable within the confines of the prose poem or dictionary entry as he is with verse; Spyrou’s "Ode to Sir Philip Sidney" contains a superb balance between meticulous observation of the physical, historical and emotional realms ("we learn to observe / with the pity / of broken clocks // the patience // of a dead saint’s / riven / digit"), rendered in a fragmented style that meanders about the page like Merton’s "Cables to the Ace." Taylor’s "Ambiguity as a Bowl of Milk" is divided into columns, the poem speaking to itself, and his "Forfeit of & For" can literally not be described; here, collage finds its way into poetry with amusing results.

There are many high points of the collection--Kate Lilley’s gorgeous mix of pop and classicism, Adam Aitken’s and Nick Riemer’s stark locales--and those poets who are better-known in American circles, including Louis Armand, Alison Croggon, MTC Cronin, Coral Hull, Emma Lew, and Tracy Ryan, nestle well against the lesser-known Adrian Wiggins, Felicity Plunkett, and Jane Gibian. By no means a flawless anthology, Calyx has got to be one of the best in-roads toward gaining a semi-holistic sense of what’s going on past the international date line.

Back to my colleague and his need for standards. In the end, in gauging the "successfulness" of writing, we must ask not only whether these contemporary Australian poets communicate effectively but whether we, as readers, are invigorated. Calyx is a series of pistons in rapid fire; the level of high energy and perplexity is consistent and fairly unwavering. As a bonus to the Australian-Australasian neophyte, glancing at its catalogue of cultural references, one sees the points of contact throughout this vast land converging in one spot, and it is dynamic. If these, along with being dissatisfied with time-tested ways of probing psychic, geographic and personal landscapes, are the hallmarks of a group of "amateurish" writers, who needs professionals?

From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2 & 3 (2001). All rights reserved. For more information about this issue, see Arielle Greenberg's poem below.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Dara Wier poem

Dara Wier
 
PROGRESS
 
There was a time when the guillotine meant progress,
Past the hacking axe, the slippery sword,
The gagging hangman’s noose.
There was a man who had his head replaced
With a wooden head with one eye on the front
And the other on the westside shaded with a
Green and white striped awning. A little
Windowbox stood under it filled to over-flowing
With sweet-smelling come-give-cream-to-granny
Roses. Purple martins flew in and out of his
Head in the early evening. Little glass lizards
Sunned themselves on him in the morning.
The paperboy really tried to deliver the paper
Very gently. And this, too, was progress.
 
 
From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2 & 3 (2001). Reprinted in Hat on a Pond (Verse Press, 2001). All rights reserved. For more information about this issue, see Arielle Greenberg's poem below. The new issue of Verse--Volume 20, Numbers 2 & 3 (2004)--includes an interview with Wier.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Review of Cort Day's The Chime

The Chime by Cort Day. Alice James Books, $11.95

Reviewed by Laura Solomon
 
In The Chime, Cort Day conducts a philharmonic as cacophonous as it is sonorous. Words do indeed chime--within a line, a poem, between poems--though the resulting music varies from reverberant to tinny. While "There is no disharmony in the skyline," Day milks every friction. Consistently playing on the paradox of being both one and many, the poems, and the book itself, resemble the stratified unity of a chord, each note wavering with vibrato. What Day deftly builds, however, is dis-chord, atonal progressions that fragment as quickly as they compose. His writing "suicides" as it "flowers": "Terminal, it likes to destroy itself" ("Monad, a Deluxe Pastoral, Deepens and Unwinds"). Poet and poem vie for dominion to no avail. True, Day is conductor--both god and vector--inflecting and channeling bolts of sound and light ("All the gods on this plain are capacitors"); it is language, nevertheless, that proves the ultimate string-puller, the invisible hand "setting all the puppeteers to dancing" ("Not a Cloud in the Sky"). In monadic fashion, Day divvies complexities in ten-line increments while rhythmically employing and subverting the pentameter--the basic metrical unit in ratio with the basic monetary unit. While these poems are frugal in line and length, even terse on the surface, they do not economize a reader’s time. The Chime is a jealous book, demanding repetitive reads and rewarding one’s input with variable decimals and decibels of output.

Like so many poets, Day tropes on text as textile, as woven, unraveling. What distinguishes his cloths, suits, garments from the crowd’s is a multi-layered figurative play and keen attention to etymology. The poems turn on the masked, the disguised, the encoded--what is being invested, enshrouded like the word’s root--and what is being tailored to market, is marketable (i.e., the quotidian dismantling text trope). Like Zeus (another tired but vendible figure), the poems mutate in a blink, sometimes within a given reading. In this sense, Day exhibits a very palpable self-consciousness toward self-consciousness, an ironic stance intimately wary of irony’s trappings. His pivots on the word invest, his delvings into the economies of guise, are innovative and revealing, but the result can be poems plagued by paranoia, verse that must morph incessantly and inwardly to evade its own gong. Day tempers tongue-in-cheek quips aimed for a post-modern reader-consumer, ("I only get ten minutes in this mask"; "Every portfolio has a tapeworm"; "I sell you the words for nipple, for strawberry") with apologetic, stirring passages like the following whose very lyricism must finally question any attempt at sincerity. Here, too, the poem must succumb to the jangle of change:
                       
When your body left mine, a chime.
The sun, vibrating imperceptibly,
causes monad to invest in chains
of waterfalls, green vitreous strands
I resonate inside. Investigate me.
I’ve been awarded a franchise.
 
Day spins verse that evolves as it revolves, and this tendency to convert, to turn and return, complements the book’s central motif of transaction--be it carnal, fiscal, or verbal. In "White, Ordinal," the modifier "white," as it is repeated, becomes modified by that which it describes ("boxes," "string," "logic," "keys"). In an illustrative move, the poem then begins to orbit outward from its axial repetition:
 
Reach inside
a forest turns. Reach, you just might touch
your father’s hand, your mother’s face. As this
displays, the forest hardens. As this is white,
the forest turns, dangerous. So you turn
softly. You are holding "fields of phlox."
 
Like money, words function as instruments of exchange, phonetic representations void of any inherent value. There is no gold or Platonic standard to a given word. Meaning is dependent upon present usage. Day writes: "I pin currencies to you. They rise and fall." The poet executes a shifting nomenclature ("I classify us as bone ash, then as lilies") as intermittent as the world it describes ("Tool & Die was the Lord’s purpose"). Whether employing the imperative or moving in curt declaratives, the poems always confirm economic cycles, dictating the market’s ultimate condition of consumption and waste. In "Elect Bastard Toadflax," Day directly addresses this condition, this "tiny application running inside everyone: / disposable, disposable, disposable, disposable." It is this repeatability, this pending replaceability, of people and words that make them commodities of narrative. Later, in "Tiny Fable," this theme explicitly recurs:
                       
Darling, your infant’s been whispering
into my dictaphone again, and its tiny fable
scares me: it says the new Disposable Symphony
will repixelate all property as green or
"rain is money."
 
Indeed, fable and myth proliferate due to the same ingenuity and repeatability that dull them. Similarly, Day’s chiming repetition alternatingly enlivens and deadens a poem’s cadence, a word’s significance.

Given the book’s fascination with the deadening of language, it should not surprise anyone that the first line of the first poem contains two cliches: "Off to market. Not a cloud in the sky." From the start, the poet announces his intention to transpose the jingle, to revive the fable, and does, at least to the extent that language and market will permit him. For still, language must be bracketed, can never just be. Language proves similic, easily commodified, often motive-driven, always an approximation: "By then my voice was 'a neutral, / highly ionized gas' involving the entire planet, / and then it was my turn, and I had nothing to say" ("A Little Song About Plastic"). These punctuated interjections are far from gratuitous, performing roles as various as the dictions that chime in and as disparate as the resulting images. At his best, Day forces us to recognize death as animate and inherent to life, "The sack cloth / corpse leaning forward in your rib cage," as he seeks to excavate a soul or at least make room for some sort of non-automation existence, doubting the possibility of such all along. What connects us to one another and what connects a word to its meaning is an inevitable disconnection. Day offers us this beautiful nightmare, the clangor of consciousness, and always we are "amazed / at the living and dying getting done in our extremities."
 

From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2 & 3 (2001). All rights reserved. For information about this issue, please see Arielle Greenberg's poem below.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Peter Ramos poem

Peter Ramos
 
PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE GHOST
 
October, color gone
from the wheat and you straggle back,
howling in your pulled wool, your work boots,
come to yuck it up with me, your mouth
full of loam, jacket lined with rot, crazy
as the leaves.
 
Each time I try to sleep you off, hoping winter
will stamp its feet, sober you up.
But the hallways soften. You
stuff me full of mothballs.
 
From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2 & 3 (2001). All rights reserved. For information about this issue, please see Arielle Greenberg's poem below.

Review of Rosmarie Waldrop's Reluctant Gravities

Reluctant Gravities by Rosmarie Waldrop. New Directions, $12.95.
 
Reviewed by W. Martin
 
Rosmarie Waldrop’s Reluctant Gravities completes a trilogy of books that have had enormous impact on the terrain of postwar American poetry. All three grew in relation to works by early twentieth-century Central European writers: Kafka, Wittgenstein, and Musil. In Reproduction of Profiles (1987), Waldrop interpreted Wittgenstein by applying grafts from the Tractatus onto her own material and simultaneously subverting what she calls, in her 1990 essay "Alarms and Excursions," the "closure of the propositional sentence," by enacting semantic shifts within such sentences in a manner that reflects back onto Wittgenstein’s own investigation of language use. As Waldrop herself informs us, alternating sections of the book are configured according to the homosocial narrative schema of Kafka’s "Description of a Struggle," in which one male character bonds with another by talking about his necessarily absent girlfriend. Waldrop’s variation, however, has "the man telling a woman about another woman. So there is a situation of jealousy" ("Conversation with Carole Maso and C.D. Wright," Tripwire 4, 2000)--a situation that recalls her novel The Hanky of Pippin’s Daughter, published the previous year, which involves the stories of two extramarital affairs (and, more importantly, is Waldrop’s most direct attempt to come to terms with the national socialist past of her childhood in Germany). More significant than the fact of interpersonal triangulation for both Reproduction and Hanky, however, is the fact of relation in a discursive sense, i.e., that one character is telling another about an absent third. This resembles the grammatical constellation of a subject and two indirect objects, with the space between them occupied not by a direct object but by the act of speaking/ narrating itself.

The second book in Waldrop’s trilogy, Lawn of Excluded Middle (1993), which she wrote as a direct extension of Reproduction, is likewise grounded in the narrative structure of a story by an early twentieth-century Austrian writer. This time it is Robert Musil’s "The Perfection of Love" (1911), which begins with an ethical dialogue between a wife and a husband on the erotic misdemeanors of a (male) character in a book they’ve both read and continues in a rich and recondite narration of the woman’s exploration of her own feelings of self and desire. In Lawn, Waldrop similarly explores the concept of the "empty center," which may be understood on one level as the grammatically negative space of telling, or even of Auseinandersetzung (a German term that means both examination and altercation, but literally translates as "taking apart" or "parsing"), but which she identifies as a generative matrix that is both a locus of creativity and a kind of essentially feminine epoche. Perhaps as an aid to those confused by Reproduction, the book includes at the end a list of precepts, which, while directing the reader’s aesthetic engagement with it, emphasize the book’s contribution to a feminine theory of cognition. I wondered when first reading it if Waldrop had appended these "directions for use" out of an anxiety over the poems’s aesthetic effects and a need to control them. Nevertheless, of the three parts of Waldrop’s project, Lawn of Excluded Middle is the one I have returned to most often; the pieces in it feel inspired and more lyrically intense than those of Reproduction of Profiles.

With the perspective of Reluctant Gravities now available, it seems to me that the emphasis on its participation in a philosophical discourse is necessary to the problematic of voice so crucial to the whole project. In the first book, the poet’s voice (Waldrop’s own, presumably) and the philosopher’s (Wittgenstein’s, as we know) are combined in counterpoint to the alternation of androgynous "I" and "you." In the second, it is a single, identifiably feminine voice that speaks two discourses, one poetic, one scientific, at once. In Reluctant Gravities, Waldrop attends explicitly to issues of voice and of dialogue, and gives us the dialectic of two other, clearly gendered pronouns, a "he" and a "she," against the neuter backdrop of their narration. Eschewing the complex propositional mode of the two earlier books, Waldrop alerts us at the beginning of the "Prologue" to the fragmentary, gestural, and uncertain presence of speech in this final book of the trilogy: "Two voices on a page. Or is it one?"

Reluctant Gravities has as its point of departure another early story by Musil, "The Temptation of Quiet Veronica" (1908), which begins, "Somewhere one must hear two voices. Perhaps they merely lie as if mute on the pages of a diary beside one another and in each other." Like the other preliminary narratives by Musil and Kafka, this story too involves a triangulated eros, a situation of jealousy, though here the relationships are more ambiguous, anticipating the incestuous union at the heart of The Man Without Qualities as well as the strange menage of Ingeborg Bachmann’s novel Malina. Reluctant Gravities is systematically structured as a sequence of twenty-four "Conversations," each comprising four prose paragraphs alternating the utterances of a male and a female speaker. The "Conversations" themselves are divided into six groups of four, and between each group are placed "Interludes" comprising 1. a "Song," 2. a "Meditation," and 3. another "Song." The "Songs" are lyrics, each having two short quatrains followed by an even shorter couplet. In the "Meditations," brief sections of prose are interspersed with lines of verse. And both "Meditations" and the "Conversations" are devoted, like essays, to a particular abstract concept or experience, such as "Desire," "Vertigo," "Aging." More rigid than that of either Reproduction or Lawn, this structure would seem to run the risk of suffocating its inhabitants were it not for the randomness and openness of the language itself. A different conception of the period is evident here; complete sentence abuts against fragment. A few examples: "If I must have a god I’ll take the matter between noun and verb. The nothing that defines, shapes next-to into phrase or cleanliness"; "Not sit, he says. Arrows toward new setting out even as the day sets in"; "So to slide down and stand there. Such self-gravity. So narrow the gap between mistake and morning sickness." In Reluctant Gravities, Waldrop dismisses the problematic of propositional sentences and attempts instead to disrupt the closure of narrated dialogue, the triangulation of speakers and the interiorization of experience as subjectivity, and the identification (or, again, closure) of self with self. She does not deploy method consistently; and this has the effect of a surplus, poetry, which is different from the surplus generated by a rigidly administered system. Nevertheless, the book’s contraption suggests that she is working here not with the sentence, the line, the prose poem, or the series, but with the book itself as the primary generic category.

What is the relationship between these pieces of language, assembled in terms of collage and transition, and anything that is not them? This book struck me as more deeply personal than either of the other two; and as with many of Waldrop’s other works, it was difficult not to imagine the relationship between the man and the woman as having a referent in Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop’s actual marriage. Further, the book is quite elegiac in tone; in addition to the perspective it provides on the aesthetic and theoretical project of its predecessors, its invocations of "Aging," "Slowing," "Childhood," and "The Millennium" suggest a biographical specificity. Beyond that, however, the book resonates with references to Nietzsche, William Carlos Williams, nineteenth-century French science, New England geography, digital technology, and many other subjects of varying degrees of familiarity to a reader. When I first read it, I kept thinking of Emmanuel Levinas; and
although it would take a considerably greater effort to support this claim with any certainty, I still feel that, consciously or not, Waldrop’s own "ontological adventure," beginning with her treatment of language and mysticism in her 1971 book Against Language?, is in some measure in dialogue with his work, especially Otherwise Than Being, on ethics and the self. The struggle that Waldrop enacts in Reluctant Gravities is, in any case, a profound, rich, and appealing one. Like its predecessors, it is a complex book that deserves to be read with considerable attention.
 
From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2&3 (2001). All rights reserved. For more information about this issue, see the Arielle Greenberg poem below.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Recently sent to reviewers:

Jeanne Marie Beaumont, Curious Conduct (BOA)
Brian Blanchfield, Not Even Then (California)
Thomas Fink, After Taxes (Marsh Hawk)

New Rain Taxi

The new issue of Rain Taxi (Vol 9 No 2) is out and looks splendid. Highlights include an interview with Barbara Guest and an essay on Stan Brakhage, among other pieces and lots of book reviews. Poetry books reviewed include Lisa Jarnot's Black Dog Songs, Jen Bervin's Nets, Donald Revell's Apollinaire translations in The Self-Dismembered Man, Noah Eli Gordon's The Frequencies, Eleni Sikelianos' The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls, John Godfrey's Private Lemonade, and Matthew Rohrer's A Green Light.

Stephen Healey poem

Stephen Healey
 
CIRCLES
 
Funny how the cookie
just sits there containing
its wisdom and raisins.
Or does it secretly expand
beyond the baker’s mind
to include the concentric cooing
of mourning doves? Yes or no,
the sound is delicious
and recedes before a human ear
can have it. If we reach out
things mourn us, things fly away.
Night forgets to light up
and day’s excrement knows
where you’ve been. By the time
I get to X, summer has burned
holes in my blank, the smell
proves I’m less figment
than flesh of wayward fruit.
You are here and can go anywhere,
says the talking streetmap.
Under the ocean? Hell,
I’d like to be your alibi
for a season, or a circle
meeting me at every point
along the curve. Even July’s
purple-propellered phlox
feel inert sometimes, then
the door to the closeted garden
opens. A sweetness prevails.
Something lands in the birdbath.
 
From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2&3 (2001). All rights reserved. For details about this issue, see Arielle Greenberg's poem.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Arielle Greenberg poem

Arielle Greenberg
 
 
THIS TRAIN
 
What comes more often than kisses to pollen in this train.
This train, the hands of god which are falsely.
The people who sleep with their socks on,
who slip their shoes off, into the hushtrip.
What comes more often than this punishment is.
And your father cannot hear anymore; he drives.
 
This train, the hands of god which are falsely.
A cavity of pain which makes the hollow of sex.
Between a candle, all trains come for flight.
Electricity undoes like a later lover, a daughter.
And your father cannot hear anymore; he drives.
Plains contract: a groan along the belly of the road.
 
The people who sleep with their socks on,
day is over to them, adoring and abandoned.
The inside of her long body is a yellow flower.
Breathe here, in the small hole your life has made.
What comes more often than kisses to pollen is this train.
An egg, the day has frozen to the palms of your hands.
 
 
From Verse, Volume 18, Numbers 2/3 (2001). Reprinted in Given (Verse Press, 2002). All rights reserved.

Other contributors to this issue include Coleman Barks, Josh Bell, Kate Clanchy, Gillian Conoley, Joshua Corey, Timothy Donnelly, Vona Groarke, Matthea Harvey, Stephen Healey, Christine Hume, Henri Israeli, L.S. Klatt, Caroline Knox, Kevin Larimer, Timothy Liu, Malinda Markham, Peter Minter, Don Paterson, Simon Perchik, Peter Ramos, Claudia Rankine, Peter Richards, David Roderick, Tessa Rumsey, Fiona Sampson, Robyn Schiff, Eleni Sikelianos, Ales Steger, Jesper Svenbro, Karen Volkman, Diane Wald, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, William D Waltz, and Dara Wier.

There also are interviews with Claudia Rankine and Conor O'Callaghan, and reviews of 22 books, including The Tablets by Armand Schwerner, Reluctant Gravities by Rosmarie Waldrop, Louise in Love by Mary Jo Bang, The Chime by Cort Day, Isolato by Larissa Szporluk, Republics of Reality by Charles Bernstein, New Addresses by Kenneth Koch, Civilian Histories by Lee Upton, Pages by John Matthias, Feast and A Ballad for Metka Krasovec by Tomaz Salamun, Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry edited by Timothy Liu, and Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets edited by Peter Minter and Michael Brennan.

To order this issue, send a check for $6 with a note to Verse, Dept of English, Univ of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. The original cover price was $9. The issue is 240 pages long.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Note to potential reviewers

Although we receive several hundred review copies/year and consider every book we receive for review, we sometimes miss books that we otherwise would have assigned for review.

Please feel free to query via email about reviewing books not listed here.

Recently sent to reviewers:

Dan Beachy-Quick, Spell (Ahsahta)
Christine Hume, Alaskaphrenia (New Issues)
Carol Snow, The Seventy Prepositions (California)

Saturday, June 19, 2004

& the latest Octopus

And also stop by the latest edition of Octopus (no.3), which includes excellent poems by Ronald Johnson, Eleni Sikelianos, John Latta, Lee Upton, Ben Lerner, John Koethe, Kevin Larimer, Daniel Nester, Mark Yakich, Joyelle McSweeney, the Winters, and others. There also are reviews of Matthew Rohrer's A Green Light, John Koethe's North Point North, Noah Gordon's The Frequencies, and Peter Gizzi's Some Values of Landscape and Weather.

New issue of Gut Cult

Verse readers, please check out the latest issue of Gut Cult (no. 4), which features poems by some of the most exciting and interesting poets in the U.S.: Tony Tost (author of Invisible Bride), Laura Solomon (author of Bivouac and former Verse associate editor), Arielle Greenberg (author of Given), Anselm Berrigan (author of, most recently, Zero Star Hotel), Shanna Compton (author of Down Spooky), Ben Lerner, Brad Flis (former Verse associate editor), Tim Botta, Stan Mir, Sandra Simonds, and Kirsten Kaschock (author of Unfathoms and currently a Verse associate editor). The issue also includes a sampling of Australian poetry, edited by Michael Farrell (the Australian editor for Slope).

Call for links

If you have published in Verse since 1995 and have a web site or a blog that is not included in the list on the right, feel free to email your link to Brian Henry at bhenr [at] yahoo [dot] com. Thanks.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Books recently sent to reviewers

Rae Armantrout, Up to Speed (Wesleyan)
Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Nest (Kelsey Street)
Jen Bervin, Nets (Ugly Duckling)
Matthew Derby, Super Flat Times (Back Bay)
Alice Fulton, Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems (Norton)
Peter Gizzi, Some Values of Landscape and Weather (Wesleyan)
Noah Eli Gordon, The Frequencies (Tougher Disguises)
Christine Schutt, Florida (TriQuarterly)
Maureen Seaton, Venus Examines Her Breast (Carnegie Mellon)
Tony Tost, Invisible Bride (LSU)
Elizabeth Treadwell, Chantry (Chax)
Catherine Wagner, Macular Hole (Fence)
Marjorie Welish, Word Group (Coffee House)
Elizabeth Willis, Turneresque (Burning Deck)

Seeking reviewers for

Dan Beachy-Quick, Spell (Ahsahta)
Thomas Fink, After Taxes (Marsh Hawk)
Ben Friedlander, Simulcast (Alabama)
Christine Hume, Alaskaphrenia (New Issues)
Murat Nemet-Nejat (editor), EDA: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry (Talisman)

If interested in reviewing any of these books, please contact Brian Henry at bhenr [at] yahoo [dot] com

latest issue just published

The latest issue of Verse--a 320-page double issue devoted to prose--has just returned from the printer.

The issue includes:

the first two chapters of Helene Cixous' Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint;

two short-short stories by Diane Williams;

three "prayers" by Paul Maliszewski;

a story by John Kinsella;

three "letters" by Gregory Brooker;

interviews with Ed Dorn, Kevin Hart, Charles North, Don Paterson, Reginald Shepherd, Gustaf Sobin, and Dara Wier;

essays on George Oppen, Jean-Luc Marion, Don Paterson, Tessa Rumsey, and Yusef Komunyakaa;

prose poems and fiction by Elke Erb, Craig Dworkin, Clayton Eshleman, Rene Char, Douglas Messerli, Michael Heller, Joy Katz, Joshua Harmon, Noah E. Gordon, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Matthew Cooperman, Peter Boyle, Rita Rich, Paul Killebrew, Michelle Noteboom, Kevin Prufer, Fred Muratori, Karla Kelsey, Susan Maxwell, Michael Dietz, Carol Quinn, David Roderick, Andrew Morgan, Kevin Craft, and Petter Lindgren;

and reviews of 33 books, including Brian Kim Stefans' Fashionable Noise, Ben Marcus' The Father Costume, Gary Lutz's Stories in the Worst Way, Hoa Nguyen's Your Ancient See Through, Jordan Davis' Million Poems Journal, Kristen Prevallet's Scratch Sides, John Kinsella's Auto, Sam Truitt's Vertical Elegies, Maurice Blanchot's Aminadab, Albert Mobilio's Me With Animal Towering, Gustaf Sobin's In Pursuit of a Vanishing Star, Michael Martone's The Blue Guide to Indiana, Kenneth Koch's A Possible World and Sun Out, Janet Kauffman's Rot, Leonard Schwartz's The Tower of Diverse Shores, Martha Ronk's why/why not, Graham Foust's As in Every Deafness, David Kennedy's The President of Earth, Jacqueline Waters' A Minute Without Danger, Tom Pickard's Hole in the Wall, John Godfrey's Push the Mule, Barry Schwabsky's Opera, and McKenzie Wark's Dispositions.

Some excerpts from the issue will be posted soon.

In the meantime, those interested in purchasing a copy may do so for $9 (cover price is $12) by sending a check to Verse, Dept of English, Univ of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 with "blog order" in the memo line.

Verse welcomes submissions of prose--especially book reviews and essays, but also interviews, short-short stories, and less easily classifiable pieces. The magazine is also interested in publishing work about writers who are not poets but whose work somehow reflects on poetry or poetics.

new Verse blog

In lieu of its website (www.versemag.org), which has been as good as dead for a while now, Verse will post updates and announcements and samples on its new blog: versemag.blogspot.com.

For info about Verse Press, please visit www.versepress.org. This blog will cover only the magazine.