Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poetry, Published in 2009

Five Poem-Books That Rocked
Chapbook of The Year
Eight Great Individual Poems Published On The Web
Appropriated Text Poem-Books of The Year
Poem-Book Translation of The Year
Poetry Publisher of The Year
Poetry Re-Issues of The Year
Favorite 2009 Silliman’s Blog Link-List Lead Links
Favorite 2009 Silliman’s Blog Link-List Lead Links
(Narcissus Division)
Most Dada-licious Send-Up of Silliman’s Blog Link-Lists
Poetic Pun of The Year
Ekphrastic Poem-Book of The Year
Bookstore Poet of The Year
Plain-Talkin’, Big City Poem-Books of The Year
Best New Poem-Book Series

Best Poem-Book by a Publisher
Owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation

Best Poem-Book by the Publisher of The Inaugural Poem
The Tygers of Wrath Award
The Exuberance is Beauty Award
Junk Drawer Poem-Book of The Year
Poet-Essayist of The Year
Poetry In Fiction Book of The Year


Five Poem-Books That Rocked

The five books listed immediately below were ones that I not only wrote about here in the glade, but which also made me go in some way poem-crazy. I read and wrote about these books, yes, but also read them again and again, did research or reading related to the poems, memorized poems are parts of them, even got in touch with the poets to let them know how much I enjoyed their work. These books, in short, rocked my poem-reading world.

Areas of Fog
Joseph Massey

(Exeter, Devon: Shearsman Books)

I wrote much about this book in the spring, shortly after its publication (click here). What I couldn’t say then was how much it would stay with me, or where Massey’s poetry would lead me.

In October, I traveled through Eureka/Arcata on a business trip, and had a short visit with Massey, who lives in that area. That was great. Greater still was reading Areas of Fog later that night and during the days that followed, while in the geographic region which many of the poems in the book refer to, or arise from. That was intense. The words, the lines, the poems, read in situ, became almost three-dimensional.

When I wrote about Areas of Fog, I pointed to traditions such as Japanese haiku and certain super-short poems by Reznikoff, W.C. Williams, and Pound. But Massey’s poems themselves reference (among others) Joseph Ceravolo, Cid Corman, William Bronk, Rae Armantrout, Frank Samperi, and the painter Agnes Martin, while the book as a whole has an epigraph by Clark Coolidge. In addition to those poets/artists, Massey in a statement just posted by the Poetry Society of America (see the last full paragraph before the poems), mentions another dozen or so poets, including eight contemporaries, whose company he keeps or whose work he considers his poetry to be in dialogue with.

The idea of fellow travelers and influences fascinate me in all poets, and particularly with regard to Massey, whose writing in certain ways strikes me as particularly singular. I’ve given myself an assignment, and happily so: to read (or read again) all the poets mentioned by Massey, to in that way perhaps think about their work along with, or in contrast to, Massey’s. It’s a course, so to speak, in certain Massey poem-ologies, and one I expect to last several months. It’ll be a lot of fun, and is another facet of the power and depth, to me, of Areas of Fog.


Dick of the Dead
Rachel Loden
(Boise, Idaho: Ahsahta Press)

I’ve written about the poems in Dick of the Dead three times here in the glade. I began with a post about “Affidavit,” a great short poem taken from the work of a police detective. I followed that with a post in August about Loden’s first public reading in decades, discussing therein five of the book’s poems. Most recently, I wrote about Loden’s “I Know A Brand” (also is in the book), a poem that updates or translates Creeley’s iconic “I Know A Man.”

That’s some healthy attention. And yet it feels as if I’m just getting started, that several more posts on individual poems in the book could and should be done. Loden’s poems are sharply written, with careful intelligence and awareness of events both current and of the recent past. They inspire.

Another poem in Dick of the Dead that strikes deep is “Belial.” It’s a sharp-edged prose poem, pretty much directly addressed to a personified no-damn-good force. Here are the first three of its ten sentences:
I knew you were the spawn of the sugar plum fairies and the Waffen
SS, but not that your human souvenirs were strewn about like so much

Or that your voice was thick and gargly, like pond sputum.

Have you tasted me yet with the black hairs of your feet?

Those lines, as they say in Italy, are “forte.” Among many things, I like the deft change-up at the end of the second sentence, where “sputum” is close enough to the more cliched “scum” to capture that word’s sound and even meaning, but also of course precisely relates to the thick and gargly voice with which the sentence begins.

“Belial” also references “a severed head” and “smegma,”among other things, so have no doubt that Loden here lets it rip, in a beautifully controlled way. I’ve read this poem probably three dozen times, and it still gives me the creeps and makes me marvel at the use of language. That latter factor is true with regard to all of Dick of the Dead.


Rae Armantrout
(Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press)

Early on this year, two reviews by Ron Silliman – the first on January 27th, the second on February 9th, greatly praised and explained much about Versed. Many others wrote about Armantrout’s book this year too, and why not? I love reading these poems. After a couple months of reading Versed, I ended up with about two dozen bookmarks in my copy of the book, designating poems I just had to make sure I could instantly find again. That’s a lot of intense and intriguing poems.

I also wrote about “New,” one of the poems in the book, after hearing Armantrout read it “live.” That litte essay, I think, shows some of the depth within what sometimes seem on the surface to be quite simple poems. I also, I must admit, developed a passable imitation of Armantrout reciting “New.” her recitation of that poem. Most of all, I’m still reading the book. All that, I think, are sure signs that Versed has made a deep impression.


The Sri Lankan Loxodrome
Will Alexander
(New York: New Directions)

On this one, I’m just going to refer you to my post from September in which I raved about the book’s title poem. You might also enjoy Andrew Wessels’ review, published on-line earlier this month at The Quarterly Conversation. And you may even want to check out a put-down of the book, by a Harvard Crimson reviewer: Alexander’s poetry sometimes sparks that kind of dismissal.


The Ravenous Audience
Kate Durbin
(Los Angeles: Black Goat c/o New York: Akashic Books)

As I explained in a post in early October, I bought The Ravenous Audience because I was curious about Durbin’s writing. I then wrote about it because the poetry knocked me out. The last few months, Durbin continues to intrigue. Her readings, I’ve now learned, often combine fashion and some aspect of performance, as in this photo she posted on her blog earlier this month, in which she wears a hooded fur(?)-hemmed dress while a helper attaches some sort of blood-flower (?) to her stockings as she reads her (excellent) poem “New Creature”:

Durbin’s embrace of singular-ness, and her trying of something somewhat different with recited poetry, impress me, as does the force of the words in her poems. That poetry also spurred me to re-read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, research certain details about Amelia Earhart, and to check out of the films of Catherine Breillat, which inspired several poems in her book.


Chapbook of The Year

The Lack Of
Joseph Massey
(Providence, Rhode Island: Nasturtium Press)
(edition of 100 copies)

This book, just published in early December, is a gem.

First, The Lack Of looks like a jewel. It’s quite small, at approximately 4.5" tall and 4.25" wide, and slim (only 20 pages, including title, dedication, and colophon pages). The cover is striking, amazingly lush-looking in its crispness, colors, and texture. It’s on a heavy, textured white-on-white horizontal striped paper, with the poet’s name letter-pressed in black type at the lower left corner, and a blood red wrap-around band on which the title is letter-pressed in black italics. The design is simple, tight, and clear, yet spacious too. (The scan above, I must apologize, in which I’ve set the book against a blue background, is way too fuzzy.) A thousand kudos here to Claire Donato & Cléa Liquard, the two “behind” Nasturtium Press, and to Joseph Massey, for the production here.

And then there are the poems. Oh my oh my, the poems. The Lack Of consists of a set of ten poems. None of the poems is titled; each is separately designated by a lower case roman numeral, in sequence. The poems are in the concise (none is longer than a dozen lines, and no line has more than five words, and those with that many are very much the exception), precise, mind-sticking and mind-expanding style in which Massey writes so well. Here’s poem “v.”:
On staple-pocked telephone poles
expired fliers flag. Over-
lapping lines
of obstructed light

hold the wall.
A rattle
of leaves.

You can, so to speak, do the math here yourself. Factor in the near or sort-of rhymes, and/or alliteration (lots of such here, including “po” in the first line, “fl” in the second “li” in the end-words of lines three and four, etc.), add the line-break and stanza-cut action, and don’t forget the precise details of what’s seen (I love “staple-pocked”). And remember too the sense, or meaning(s), of the poem, that which I think is behind what’s written and/or which arises from what’s read. I can’t articulate this sense or meaning exactly, but it seems to me to have to do with what’s missing, an absence, or, in the words of the book’s title, The Lack Of. The fliers are expired, the light is obstructed, and the leaves rattle (as in death rattle, or so I hear it). The light may hold the wall, but we know it really doesn’t.

I think each of the book’s ten poems concerns something about the subject(s) conveyed or implied by the title, The Lack Of. The chap’s a set of poems, not simply a collation of unconnected pieces. And although the poems don’t need explication – anybody can read and get these things, and get them deeply, with a little thought – their individual and collective richness reward intense attention, despite their brevity. That’s another quality of Joseph Massey’s poetry that I greatly enjoy: his are among the shortest poems on the planet, can be read as some of the most straightforward, and yet with them the mind can go, and go, for a long time, and deep within.

The Lack Of – what a gem!


Eight Great Individual Poems
Published On The Web

Poetry, of course, is not just published in single-author collections, but sometimes also as individual poems. Here are eight great individual poems published on the Web in 2009. All are flat-out great. I book-marked these poems when I first saw them, read them repeatedly, and thought hard about them. These poems also rocked my reading-world, deserve this call out, and many more readers.

The titles of the poems that follow act as links, so click and go to read them, if you please. Poems are presented in the approximate order they came to my attention; I also include the poet’s name and the site at which it appeared, along with a brief comment or two on each:

“The Incinerator”
Juliana Spahr
Lana Turner Journal

“The Incinerator” combines documentary-style facts and details, a personified place, autobiography, intimacy (very persuasively presented), repetition (anaphoric and otherwise), and much else. It’s about, at least at the start, Chillicothe (Ohio), but there’s also much about Appalachia, and much else too (Hannah Weiner’s “Radcliffe and Guatemalan Women” is much referenced, for example). The poem’s in five parts and goes for about 4,000 words. “The Incinerator” mesmerizes me, and has all year, with its specifics and epic-ness, its abstractions and details, and (referring here to its more versified sections) its rhythms and repetitions.


In a recent post (click here), I cataloged the many Olson prose poems that were published on-line and in print this year. Of the 30 or so that appeared, “Smack That Pickle” is my favorite. It’s high-flow, by which I mean the lexical current is strong, and sweeps the mind away. It’s rich with allusions too. The first sentence, an unpunctuated gleeful rush, will give you a feel:
How do you market poetry you do it with shattered nights and guns shooting adhesive predications whatever exists that can exist in air the lips of Jackson Pollock the chin of Samuel Taylor Coleridge the eyes of Emily Dickinson the throat of Edgar Allan Poe the electricity of Christopher Smart.

Rae Armantrout

This poem was published on the web by – er, um – yours truly, using a scanned image of the back cover of The Denver Quarterly, where it had been first been published. I fell, and fell hard, for the poem, at first sight, and I just had to write about it (click here). The opening image of the second stanza:
A slender whirlpool

momentary poppy,

over a drain

still makes me swoon. I also had the pleasure this year of hearing Armantrout read “Sway” live, as part of the manuscript of her next collection, titled Money Shot.


Stephen Ratcliffe

This poem is posted in installments, one per day, on Ratcliffe’s blog. In mid-October, when I wrote here in the glade (click here) about this poem, I said I’d seen the future of poetry on Blogger. I still believe that. After my post, I learned of the poem’s overall title from Ratcliffe, who also told me he projected 1,000 parts, of which he’d completed about 550. By my math, that means that we’ll get a new part of “Temporality” every day in 2010. Yes!


“Pollock Pouring”
Clayton Eshleman

This poem is a poetic meditation on, or conjuring upon, the paintings of – perhaps a single painting by – Jackson Pollock. Eshleman’s words seem to drip, splatter, slash, and boldly so, or echo the mind when looking at such action in a classic Pollock work. It’s well worth hanging in the museum of your mind, with lines such as:
To cage you blizzard, to purify
your gizzard while disemboweling
the lizard in its bower. To make these millipedal
feelers mill, to pedal eels, white elvers . . .

“William Forsythe: Decreation”
Mark Lamoureaux
[posted on his blog]

This is one of about twenty Dance Poems Lamoureaux published this year on his blog. Written spontaneously while watching live dance, each poem becomes a response as well as a word-creation. The particular poem cited here is particularly appealing. It mostly moves in taut one-word (and never more than three-word) that energetically leap, slide, and turn (for example: “stake / knead / brass / bolt / crash / orbit / fire”). I’m hoping for a chapbook of all the Dance Poems in 2010.


“Draft 99: Intransitive”
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
– 38

DuPlessis’ Drafts is an endless (in the best sense) poem well into its third decade. This section, which may be the latest published, is especially interesting since it largely concerns death, something arguably quite at odds with an endless poem. The defining characteristic of this poem are almost three dozen blacked out segments which can be taken as blacked out text (akin to death?) or which – and this is marvelous – can be peeled away with your cursor, to reveal the words (or, in a few instances, just letters, as in “XXXXX”) hidden below each blacked out segment. Interactive poetry eye-pop wow!


“How Do I Brand Thee?
Rachel Loden
at the on-line

New American Writing

This poem (which is the second one on the linked-to page) is an updating or contemporary translation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous “How Do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways” sonnet. Here are Loden’s first seven lines:
How do I brand thee? Let me replicate my praise.
I brand thee to the depth and breadth and height
Of earth’s dominion, and then out of sight
To claim the spinning stars and endless space.
I brand thee to the whim of every day’s
Most craven need, by cathode tube and plasma-light.
I brand thee methodically, as robots scour the night.
In Loden’s poem, the voice of Browning’s totally committed lover is switched to something less specifically identifiable (in terms of exactly who’s doing the talking), but who is as deeply committed to the stated point of view as was the original. The seems to me at least in part a critique of our consumerist and the sometimes crushing force of society on the individual. “Brand” as in manufactured, and “brand” as in what the rancher does to his cattle, and double-ouch to both. I love the journey, in Loden’s lines, from spinning stars to plasma light and endless space to robots in the night.


Appropriated Text Poem-Books of the Year

I’ve a special fancy for appropriated text poems. You may have noticed, the ONLY real poem I wrote this year – “(in my dreams) The Inaugural Poem” – was a collage of appropriated lines from other poems (click here). I greatly enjoy those who make poems with words written or said by others, and get downright giddy when that’s done well.

For appropriated text poetry, 2009 was incredible. If I were to give a single award, I’d have to declare a five-way tie! Each work below appropriates in different ways, and uses differently their taken text(s). Each, to my mind, is a sensational poem-book, or book of poems, as the case may be. Here are my picks:

Survey Says!
Nathan Austin
(New York: Black Maze Books)

Earlier this year, I raved about this book twice, here and here. It’s a big-fun meld of TV pap (answers given by contestants on the Family Feud game-show) and constrained concept poetics. Wanna know how Survey Says! has changed how I see the world? The other night, I thought of a spin-off on Austin’s book that I’d like to see: Christmas Jeopardy, a collection of all correct answers (i.e., questions) given on the game show broadcast on December 25th, arranged in alphabetical order of the terminal letters of each answer. Some day, I just might do it!


Tony Lopez
(Totnes, Devon: Acts of Language)

I thank Ron Silliman, who reviewed it this past July 15th, for bringing this book to my attention. I love collages, and this book is a series of prose collages, each put together from found (appropriated) sentences, from what appear to be many (though unidentified) sources. Paratactic juxtaposition. Juxtaposed parataxis. Paraposed juxtataxis. Juxtatactic paraposition. No matter how much I read Darwin, it remains ever-fresh.


Statement of Facts
Vanessa Place
(no place [Norway]: Forlaget Attåt, 2009)

This little poem-book (it’s only about 30 pages) is an act of creative self-appropriation, with Place having taken the entirety of her text entirely from, precisely as it was written for, a legal appellate brief she wrote on behalf of clients in cases centered on sex crimes, and presenting it more or less the same as it looked when it was filed with the court (the font and line-spacing were changed from the court filing, it appears to my trained eyes).

The upshot: ugly, brutal, disturbing life-episodes, and the sometimes riveting, sometimes banal facts that underlie such events, which previously had been buried in a legal document, have been made into a prose poem-of-kind regarding ugly, brutal, disturbing life-episodes, and the sometimes riveting, sometimes banal facts that underlie such events. This is “poetry-from-the-law” and thus a project I’ll have write more about in the future, so as to add to the four other essays I’ve published on that subject here in the glade. Note too that Place in 2008 published another set of her Statement of Facts appropriations at UbuWeb (click here), so it appears this is an ongoing project.


Janet Holmes
(Exeter, Devon: Shearsman Books)

This is an erasure project, using the poems written by Emily Dickinson in the first years of the Civil War. Holmes selects words from those poems to address contemporary American war and related values and events. The original poems’ word order is preserved, and erased lines and space, and the spacing otherwise found in the originals, are left in place. Thus, there’s much white space on Holmes’ pages, and the relative sparseness of text in turn heightens the intensity of the words. I love the poems; the book updates Dickinson, and at the same time ages contemporary events, in ways that move the mind and heart. Here’s Holmes’ poem # 27, in a facsimile of the double-page spread on which it is printed in the book. It was written using words in Dickinson poems (in the Franklin edition) ## 373-375 (click images to enlarge each page):

THE MS OF MY KIN has also sent me scurrying back to the Dickinson originals (actually, I had to get the Franklin edition, having long had the Johnson), so that I could play along with Holmes – to see what she Holmes saw, and how that which she removed compared to that which she used. I’ve only just begun that project, but it’s fun, and an extremely vitalizing way to re-read Dickinson’s and Holmes’ poems.


Poems Found in a Pioneer Museum
Susan Howe
(Tipperary, Ireland: Coracle Press)

This “thing” is amazing. It’s a reinforced, green linen-covered box, 5.25" tall and 4" wide, with the title stamped across the top edge. The box contains 32 letter-pressed (yes!) cards, 30 of which have a poem, a poem made from appropriated text. As Howe explains in the printed endnote (on its own card, natch):
I copied these poems, almost verbatim, from typed identification cards placed beside items in display cases at Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Memorial Museum founded in 1901 by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. The artifacts and memorabilia in their collection date from 1847 when Mormon settlers first entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake until the joining of the railroads at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869.
Reading the poems, one after another, is first a kind of time-trip, even though the descriptions are dissociated from the actual items. Actually, the dissociation heightens the travel, since the appropriated texts, via the imagination, become the objects. Here’s the first poem in the box:
The poem-cards have plenty of fascinating bits along the lines of “Nid / Nod,” the early day peddler who thanks to Howe might now sell his wondrous wares to a whole new slew of folks.


Poem-Book Translation of the Year

Prague With Fingers of Rain
Vítezslav Nezval
translated by Ewald Osers

(Highgreen, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books)

This book presents, in English, thirty-five poems Nezval wrote about or set in Prague. Most or all were written in the mid-1930s, when Nezval took up surrealist ways. It includes 14 poems never before published in English. There’s a five page introduction, notable both for its lucid summary of Nezval’s life and work and its straightforward acknowledgment of his degraded poetry of the last two decades.

Regardless of his later writings, Nezval in the mid-1930s was a poetic force, productive with mostly great results. I enjoy pawing through the original Czech, with multiple dictionaries at hand (that language with its often consonant-rich words, is a fascinating tangible thing), but I’ll spare you you the bloody details of all that. Here, however, is a taste of Nezval, excerpts from Oser’s translation of the third and final stanza of “Prague in the midday sun.” Many, I assume, will hear the echo of Lautreamont in the final five lines, but even if you don’t, it’s a heck of run – a poet in full-joy, celebrating his city in all its associations:
It is noon
Prague is sleeping and yet awake like a fantastic dragon
A sacred rhinoceros whose cage is the sky
A stalactite organ playing softly
A symbol of resurrection and treasures of dried-up lakes

[ . . . ]

Your beauty has sprung from caverns and subterranean agates
You are old as the prairies over which song spread its wings
When your tower clocks strike you are opaque as an island night
Exalted as the tombs that crown the Ethiopian kings
As if from a different world the mirror of my imagery
Beautiful as the mystery of love and improbable clouds
Beautiful as the mystery of speech and primordial memory
Beautiful as an erratic block marked by the rains
Beautiful as the mystery of sleep and stars and of phosphoresence
Beautiful as the mystery of thunder of the magic lamp and of poetry


Poetry Publisher of the Year

All praise and glory this year to Edge, which published three books in 2009, all of which I bought, read, and found fascinating. Those books, in order of their listed publication dates, are:

Chris Nealon
01 April 2009

This book has a beautifully designed cover (and guts too) by Justin Sirois, and high-velocity poetry by Nealon, who, thanks to a tip from Garrett Caples, I’ve been reading with interest and enjoyment since his first Black Square editions chapbook back in 2001. Among the many great points in Plummet is the following two-line melding of poetic tradition (that’d be Whitman) and political socio-cultural critique, from near the end of the poem “Since You Ask.” It made me snort out loud, and say, “Touché!”:

Remember? Unscrew the locks from the doors! Set free the mad from their
asylums! Leave them out to beg!


I really love this book. Please see my post of a few weeks ago (click here) for a few of the reasons why, or better yet, just get the book and read it!


K. Lorraine Graham
01 July 2009

I bought this book, I swear, because I saw a photo of Graham, and an interview with her, which made clear that she had a passion for hula-hooping. I dig hoopers! And I’m still going round-‘n’-round with her book. Round ‘n round in fun, invigorating ways, but also round-‘n’-round because its poems keep a-movin’ – I can’t get a fix on them. Think of trying to learn how to hula hoop, and not quite getting it, at least not right away. Graham’s title sequence is a 45 page mix of prose and verse, sometimes just a few lines to a page. Here’s a paragraph from it:
Jibber jabber through production pull. Summon fibrillation cheers
the target-body served and gagged. Day spent June for weakness.
Mean, how intense and unresolved made desire all of retrospective?
There’s no way we’re a night more than twice. Ridiculous form of the
user’s choice. Panic (supposedly) modifies memory.

Re-Issues of the Year

Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems
Gary Snyder
(Berkeley: Counterpoint)

The fiftieth anniversary edition of Snyder’s first book, plus the “Cold Mountain Poems” which have long been associated with it. For all their nature-zen-travel zest and vigor, it’s also amazing how the the first lines of the title poem, in what is said about the thing-ness of words, also have a place deep in what I’ll call the Gertrude Stein / L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing tradition:
Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
As you can tell from the scan, this book has a gorgeous cover, reproducing a Tom Killion woodcut of a High Sierras scene. The book also comes with a CD of Snyder reading the poems, including a few selections recorded in the 1950s!


Christian Bök
(Toronto: CoachHouse Press)


Curtis Faville, editor
re-published on-line only at:

As explained at the Eclipse site, “Curtis Faville's L Magazine ran to five issues in three installments, one annually from 1972 to 1974.” Particularly fun is the final issue, containing numbers 4 and 5. The cover is pictured above. Inside are plenty of poem-goodies. There’s a couple as yet uncollected (not yet re-printed) poems by Ron Silliman, including a five and one-half pager titled “Popeye” that consists of single or two word phrases arrayed on the page, in alphabetical or sometimes phonetically-related order.

Another real treat in this issue is an otherwise unpublished 44 page poem, in 131 numbered sections, titled Tiny Messages, by Clark Coolidge.

The poem is dated “13VI-25VIII 1970” and, as the title suggests, the sections are very short, minimalist, enigmatic (read: fascinating) things, printed three or four to a page. Here, for example, are sections 76-78, which appear on a single page:

room and room
behind them all


even over so


one no one
What a great, interesting, re-surfacing of a little (or should that be, given its title, “L”ittle) mag!


Favorite 2009 Silliman’s Blog Link-List Lead Links

Among the great joys of Silliman’s Blog are its link-lists. This year, Ron published 71 such posts. I say, wow! And I say, thanks Ron! Those things can’t be easy. The lists, in their juxtapositions, rhythms, and other use of language (e.g., puns), sometimes have a poetic quality. Most astonishing is the range and numbers of poetry and poetry-related matters for which links are provided. No, I didn’t count ‘em all up, but the aggregate total this year is somewhere around 5,000 links. Think of all the great surfing on those poetry-waves!

Here are my top five 2009 Silliman’s Blog lead links – those that appeared at the top of the lists – and which supremely taught, reminded, unveiled, or astonished (in chronological order). The dates and photos link back to the original post at Silliman’s Blog, while the link-title (taken verbatim from Ron’s lists) goes to the matter to which Ron linked. I also add a brief comment about why the link-list was important.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

(Caroline Williamson’s approximately 8,000 word essay
had me reading Guest’s poems for months.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

(I love close readings, and as co-editor of the to-be-published
next month Collected Eigner, Faville gets really, really close.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

(This Susan M. Schultz post alerted me to Dick of the Dead; ‘nuff said!)


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The sound work of Demetrios Stratos

(Hearing and reading about these works – about which
I had been unaware – just about blew off both of my ears.)


(Grenier knows, and beautifully tells, about Eigner’s writing,
including great discussions of six poems.)


Favorite 2009 Silliman’s Blog Link-List Lead Links
(Narcissus Division)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Most Dada-licious Send-Up
Silliman’s Blog Link-Lists


(Love those links!)



Poetic Pun of The Year

I’m a sucker for puns, in poems at least; I wrote about this, and why punny poems are so important, in a post about a year ago.

The poetic pun that hooks me hardest this year is in this book:

The Shunt
David Buuck
(Long Beach: Palm Press)

More specifically, it’s in the poem “Stanza In Mediation 6” (the title of which is a play on Gertrude’s Stein “Stanzas in Meditation”). Buuck’s poem concerns economic, social, and political matters, and has a number of punny phrases, including its first two lines, which go: “saw the best mimes / of our content generators . . . .” The really special pun, the one I highlight here, is Prince-ly, and shows up in the poem’s last three lines. Here it is, with (for context) the preceding three lines as well:
it’s 12 .99
it’s 18 .99
it’s 29 .99
it’s 36 .99 & tonight
we’re gonna parlay
like it’s 19. 99 – per
(By the way, there is a review of The Shunt in the new Jacket (click here to go) that includes an interesting paragraph, of approximately 200 words, thoroughly analyzing Buuck’s use of the word “parlay” in the above-quoted lines; oddly, the pun is never mentioned!)


Ekphrastic Poem-Book of the Year

Space The Solider Who Died For Perspective
Tony Trehy
(London: Veer Books)

This book is of a kind that ranks high among my favorite type of poem: books: almost utterly incomprehensible, in terms of positivist, or straight-line logical, meaning. Although the end-note is an excerpt regarding Paolo Uccello and perspective from Vasari’s Lives of the . . . Painters, I’d have of never know, just reading the poems in the book – there are seven of them, all in prose in its approximately 75 pages of text – that it was all spurred by viewings of the first panel of Uccello’s Rout of San Romano, painted in 1432. Trehy explained that in a long blog post about his book, shortly after its November publication (click here to go).

Paolo Uccello, Rout of San Romano (1432)

The wondrous thing, and I mean that sincerely, and I hope Trehy does not take offense, is that even with his blog-posted explanatory comments, the connections between the poems and the subject remain obscure. That relationships remain hidden means that I’ll continue to read the poems, again and again, seeking and thinking. And I’ll especially do so because of Trehy’s particular Trehy ways with words. Among other things, he sometimes uses unusual words, and/or invents or modifies them, so as to stretch and pull and insist on new directions in language and thought. Here’s a partial list of such words, extracted from just the first 25 pages of poems in Space The Soldier Who Died For Perspective: satisficing, equiconsistent, tesseract, tmesis, auxetic, homomorphism, homotopy, vinculum, poset, alto rilievo, encopresis, brindle, flexural, vitruvian, torus, tuple-track, and xanthelasma.

Trehy’s writing also fascinates because his sentences have the structure, sometimes, of a science treatise, and have the sheen of straight-forward logic, but mightily resist solutions or anything but the most hypothetical explication. You gotta read the whole set of poems, of course, but here are the first two sentences of the final section (#4) of “Mirror Canon Snips”:
Length times width times depth times (the pathos of this
multiplication and dimuntion of obsequies) equals a panting
vocalization akin to laughter each suggestion of a gentler
mood is fiercely don’t run. But parallax motions toward some
infinities larger than others musn’t wouldn’t want the heredity
and landscape of light, the scale of a moment of first or last

Bookstore Poet of The Year

This is actually a very competitive category. At least here in the San Francisco Bay Area, poets who work in bookstores are so numerous that I’ve developed a serious “pet” peeve: it’s bookstore poets, not bookstore cats, that ought to receive all the attention, such as blog posts, books, and assorted tributes. Of course, I know why the cats get all the attention: poets are harder to herd.

Ba-da-dum. I’ll be here all weeks, folks.

Seriously, though, while many in theory deserve this award, this particular year – 2009 – the award must go to:

David Highsmith
Books and Bookshelves
99 Sanchez Street
San Francisco, California

The reasons are many. First, the store Highsmith runs has a very healthy collection (well over 100 linear shelf-feet) of contemporary small press poetry, and sometimes he turns up – and puts up for sale – real treasures. Second, he can sell you just about any kind of wooden bookcase you might want to put your poem-books on. Third, Highsmith and crew regularly have readings in the store, including among the two dozen this year a few (Derek Fenner and Janet Holmes, among others) that managed to get my lazy, anti-social, poetry reading, self out of the house.

But the most important reason for recognizing Highsmith this year is that 2009 has been one hell of a year for him as a poet. He has in the last 12 months had five (yes, five) books and/or chapbooks of poetry published: Petroglyph (Muncie and Lascux: Painted Bison Press); October Fires (Sandusky and Kalamazoo: Party Favor Press); Congregations (Philadelphia: Plan B Press); 3 from the 70’s (Chicago & Berlin: Felt Hat Editions); and Your Wilderness & Mine (Buffalo: BlazeVOX Books). That is quite a list, for a single year.

Of these books, I’m partial to Petroglyph, poems in prose, written in quasi-new sentence style paragraphs. The work dates from what might called the Ketjak era of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing in San Francisco.

Another of this year’s Highsmith books also makes me burn with passion:

This book consists of 75 numbered three-line poems, each as enigmatic as the next. A few are mostly observational, such as #2:
new moon, sailboards in
nocturnal prospect
owl’s head at water’s edge
Most of the poems, however, while a bit observational, seem to contain more, as in #40:
improbity, a river
broken at the branch, to court
the moon, a bridge for sheep
The three line form hints at haiku, yet as #40 demonstrates, no easy leaps or associations seem at hand. And that’s why I like these poems. Congratulations, David Highsmith, on one hell of a 2009. May your poetic run continue!


Plain-Talkin’, Big City Poem-Books of The Year

Escape from Combray
Rick Snyder
(Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Press)

Snyder’s Escape from Combray received a nice write-up by John Yau in the November Brooklyn Rail. What struck me when I read the book was the Chicago locale to many of the poems (not that surprising, given that the covers, endpapers, and section dividers reproduce a section from a map of the city), and the incredible directness with which the particulars are presented in the poems (and make no mistake, these poems are rich in here and now particulars). Here, for example, from “Gold Sound,” is Snyder’s description of what’s heard when outside a the Lowell-Berteau Plating shop on Fullerton Ave:
where the clank
of metal follows
the hiss of steam
which follows
the clank of metal
rhythmic and percussive

the man-sized metronome
banging time
It’s fun to map the noise and relative silences in these words of Snyder, or to just read the passage over and over, digging the big ticks-beat/pause-tocks of the lines. This is epsecially so given that the whole bit is framed by a poet, or poetic voice, that digs Kit-Kat bars (buy the book, read the poem, and you will see what I mean). In any event, Escape from Combray has plenty of perfect pitch particulars, plainly told.


Douglas Rothschild
(no place: subpress)

Theogony contains much about New York City. Union Square, Mayor Mike, and the Mets (at least twice) make appearances, and so too do plenty of other recognizable places and persons. Most powerfully, many of the poems relate to 9/11 and the events after it (I wrote, here in the glade, about Rothschild’s 9/11 related translation of Creeley’s “I Know A Man”).

Similar to Snyder (although the style is much different), Rothschild’s poems are mostly, and skillfully, direct and plain-spoken, without convoluted syntax or runs of complex vocabulary. In this regard I think both poets take their cue from Dr. Williams. In Rothschild’s poems, that particular echo is sometimes purposeful, as in “The Golden Mean,” his update of, or take on, WCW’s “The Great Figure.” Here’s Rothschild’s first stanza; which you will see directly presents details, as did Williams’ poem, about the figure 5:
i saw the blackened #5 on a
blackened fire shield on a black
fire helmet. Atop a mustachioed
fire fighter from somewhere in NJ

Best New Poem-Book Series

City Lights Spotlight

The Spotlight series has brought some refreshing contemporary poetry to City Lights Publishing. Garrett Caples’ editing of the first two Spotlight volumes, selected poems of Norma Cole and Anselm Berrigan, respectively, has been marvelous. Those books were tight! That Caples did stellar work doesn’t surprise me in the least. In the almost ten years I’ve known him, he’s always has been able to focus, sympathetically – and when necessary, critically – on the essential aspects of poets’ work. In 2010 the Spotlight will feature collections by Andrew Joron and then Cedar Sigo. Bring ‘em on!


Best Poem-Book by a Publisher
Owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation

No, it doesn’t atone, not even close, for (let’s say) Fox News, but credit must be given:

John Ashbery
(New York: Ecco/Harper Collins)

I wrote about Planisphere earlier this month (click here), and am enjoying it still. Last week I caught an episode of the ever-annoying Bob Ross PBS how-to-paint broadcasts, and found myself wondering to the point of total distraction if any of that guy’s catch phrases – “There we go” or “Look it there,” for example – had ever been appropriated by Ashbery, given the poets long use of everyday Americana colloquialisms, including in Planispheres. And thus but one example of how Ashbery’s book has altered how I think.


Best Poem-Book by the Publisher
of The Inaugural Poem

This category is here for two reasons. First, it allows me to kvetch again – and it did take place early this year, of course, so it’s apt – about The Inaugural Poem. I didn’t like it, and still don’t, although I do appreciate that it gave me a chance to create “Pre-amp Soothe Forearm Theodolite Dazzle,” a N + 44 version of “Praise Song For The Day,” that I posted here for the possible edification and amusement of a few.

Still, god bless that there was a poem at the ceremony, and god bless that once it was written and recited the folks at Graywolf published it. But the real treasure from that publisher this year was:

D.A. Powell
(Saint Paul: Graywolf Press)

A few years ago, Powell spent time teaching at Harvard, but seems to be none the worse for doing so (sorry, Ivy Leaguers). He writes mostly long, very controlled lines, and writes precisely regardless of line-length. A number of poems in Chronic had me re-reading them all year. Chief among these is “crematorium at sierra view cemetery next to the high school” (lower case in the original). The poem concerns the high school in Olivehurst (near Marysville) where Powell went. As the title states, the school is next to a cemetery/crematorium. The poem is at points funny, at points almost macabre, at points (pun intended) deadly serious, always pointy sharp, and unforgettable. A true stunner, it is, as the saying go, by itself worth the price of admission.


The Tygers of Wrath Award

I No Longer Believe In The Sun:
Love Letters to Katie Couric

Derek Fenner
(Lowell, MA: Bootstrap Productions)

Here’s what I wrote back in February about this book, which impressed and scared me in almost equal measures: Taken as a whole, the letter-poems reflect an id-egoic male tight-twisted sex-religion-TV-celebrity-fetish-terror-apocalypse is clarity-fantasy, amen. Well, maybe not amen: more like, “so help me God.”


The Exuberance is Beauty Award

Amuse Bouche
Adeena Karasick
(Vancouver, British Columbia: Talonbooks)

I ended my post about this book (click here, if you please), imagining how Karasick lexically skips and cartwheels down the street, heading right to wherever it is that words promise the most fun. From her wild suite of comma poems, to her write-throughs of airline safety guides, restuarant menus, advice books, and viral video-songs, to her sound-poem “A Syllabration,” Karasick’s Amuse Bouche was energetic enthusiasm on-the-page.


Junk Drawer Poem-Book of the Year

Footnotes To Algebra:
Uncollected Poems 1995-2009
Eileen Tabios
(Buffalo: BlazeVOX Books)

I love the idea behind this book: get together all the poems that had been lying around, which had never been included in one book or another, and which wouldn’t, for reasons of space or style, fit in an upcoming “Selected Poems,” and then publish the bunch of them. I love the idea of having things around – like stuff in the junk drawer – that has no specific purpose in this world. Such stuff sometimes is the best. And what do you know: Tabios turned up her amazing “Triptych for Philip,” a three-parter that combines memories of the late, great Lamantia with a conjuring of his presence and essence. I’m wild for the poem, so wild I blurbed it – the poem – for the back of this book.


Poet-Essayist of The Year

Earlier this month, I listed and briefly discussed the five non-literary essays published this year by John Olson, including “Strange Matter,” just out in The American Scholar. To those, add his revised version of “Gutenberg Blues” (on aliteracy), which I posted here in the glade in February, and his wondrous essay “Extreme Reading,” posted here in June and which continues to receive appreciative comments. For good measure, consider too that Olson’s essay “Brought To A Boil” (on experimental poetry) was this year translated into Dutch, and so posted on-line. Yes, call me Olson-nut, but I’m certain that on this all must agree: he’s the poet-essayist of 2009.


Poetry In Fiction Book of The Year

The Collected Stories of
Lydia Davis

(New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)

This one was easy. Many reviews of this book mentioned the poetic (think: prose poem) quality of the stories, given their brevity, concision, attention to language, and lack in many cases of traditional fictional devices such as characters and narrative plot. And even before any reviews of this book, Ron Silliman had included Davis on a list of “20 women poets” who had most influenced his writing (he stated that Davis’ short prose pieces “occupy a space in writing that is neither entirely poetry or prose”).

The poetry label works, for me, not because Davis’ short works are similar to certain kinds of prose poem “flash fictions.” It’s the language, her use of it. Consider the story titled, “The Brother-in-Law” which at eight short paragraph doesn’t even come close to filling two pages. The “he” of the story – and that pronoun is used more than two dozen times, and the related forms “his” and “him” collectively a dozen more – is a cypher, an absence, a kind of ghost, or so it seems to those family members with whom he resides (they could not tell, for example, where he came from, where he slept, or if he ate). Davis’ over-arching achievement in the story is to use words, tangible things, to convey that which seems not to be. To do so, much “poetry” is used, including massive attention to particulars.

Here for your pleasure, and to illustrate my point, is the third paragraph from “The Brother-in-Law.” The first sentence has repeated, similarly structured, and thus rhythmic, phrases. That’s then counterpointed by a very short sentence of exactly the opposite structure. That in turn is followed by a real doozy, a comparatively long sentence that surprises or even shocks a bit with its subject matter (the directness of its treatment of it) and which ends with a sit-up-and-take-notice, let’s-think-about-this simile (and which is one of only two similes in the story, thus heightening its impact):
He did not bleed, he did not cry, he did not sweat. He
was dry. Even his urine divorced itself from his penis and
entered the toilet almost before it had left him, like a bullet
from a gun.

Best Poetry-Blog Readers of The Year

This one goes to you, if – and forgive my presumptousness – there actually are any of you who have actually slogged, trudged, or otherwise scroll-pulled themselves all the way through to the end of this post. Thank you, and deeply, for taking the time to read this, and for doing the same with any of the other fifty posts I put up this year.

I often feel that every post is my last. It never has turned out that way, and I doubt this one will mark the end. However, I must say: the first part of 2010 is going to be a busy time, even if nothing but poetry reading is considered. As stated above, I’ve pledged to read 20 poets to more fully enjoy the work of Joseph Massey, and in just a few weeks I’ll receive the huge, four-volume Collected Eigner, with its thousands of poems. Plus, there’s still poetry from 2009 that I haven’t yet read, or read right, including Robert Kelly’s Fire Exit (Black Widow Press), Jessica Smith’s Dusie chap (if I’m ever fortunate enough to get one), Alli Warren’s Well Meaning White Girl (Mitzvah Chaps), and Joseph Donahue’s Terra Lucida (Talisman). So if I’m a bit less frequent with the posts here, please know that the poetry reading continues, and I’ll be back soon.

Until then, Yes!, and Best Wish!