Editorial assistant Kelly Liu reviews three 2020 titles from Wesleyan University Press, each touching on memory and loss: Now It’s Dark by Peter Gizzi, Un-American by Hafizah Geter, and A Forest of Names by Ian Boyden. Of Gizzi's book, Kelly writes: Now It’s Dark begins with a dedication: “for my brother Tom // also gone.” In the face of unrelenting, constantly encroaching threat of mortality, Gizzi pens a collection of poetry that mourns those who passed and those who will continue to. In a dark world inhabited by ghosts, simultaneously aftermath and augury, Gizzi wades through physicality with an acute sense of its already-absence. Perhaps its most haunting line, “Say what’s a grammar when you is no longer you,” questions the limits of language: how can language work when the object of reference no longer exists materially, when the ‘you’ who was once alive and breathing becomes the abstract ‘you’ left behind in thought? As it seeks to preserve some semblance of life, to write the phenomenological world into the world of poetry, Gizzi’s work is a continuous attempt to inscribe: “I want to tell you this isn’t just all song. // I want to say this scrap of paper had sky in it.”
Book by book, Peter Gizzi has made propulsive advances in style and range. Poems sprawl longer, blaze forth brighter in rich fluidities of argument, bare riddling surfaces of ever-more-intricate logic and sound, and all the while offer readers fuller, faster, more enterable poetic experiences. Meanwhile, the gradual emergence of an authorial alter-ego in these poems — an obdurate speaker grounded in quotidian observation, prone to political outbursts, romantic — this signature persona becomes, for the reader, a companionable figure.
Book by book, Peter Gizzi has made propulsive advances in style and range. Poems sprawl longer, blaze forth brighter in rich fluidities of argument, bare riddling surfaces of ever-more-intricate logic and sound, and all the while offer readers fuller, faster, more enterable poetic experiences.
Gizzi's poems push against both abstraction and lyric voicing, ensnaring the close listener in an intensifying cascade of dissociative rhythms and discursive constellations. Songs also say, saying also sings. And what at first seems to resist song becomes song. These enthralling, sometime soaring, poems approach, without dwelling in, elegy. They are the soundtrack of a political and cultural moment whose echoic presence Gizzi makes as viscous as the “dark blooming surfs of winter ice."
Organized by Peter Gizzi and Juliana Spahr for the Poetics Program, SUNY-Buffalo (thanks also to Chris Funkhouser for recordings). All day-time events were held in the Rare Books Room; evening events were held at the Hallwall Arts Center. PennSound New Coast page.
Charles Bernstein commissioned me to write a piece that would bring Wallace Stevens' reputation among contemporary poets up to date - from 1975 to the present. The essay I wrote, as has been noted here before, was published in the fall 2009 issue of Boundary 2. Here is a PDF version of the entire article, called "The Stevens Wars."
In it I discuss the varying responsiveness to Stevens in the writings of (in order of appearance) Susan Howe, Ann Lauterbach, Michael Palmer, Charles Bernstein ("Loneliness in Linden" is a rejoinder to "Loneliness in Jersey City"), Lytle Shaw, Robert Creeley, Jack Spicer, Peter Gizzi, John Ashbery, John Hollander, and again Susan Howe as a very different sort of response than that of Hollander.
I produced a new PennSound podcast, the sixth in the series; it presents an overview of PennSound, its mission and its pedagogical assumptions and implications. In discussing how students, teachers and readers can use PennSound's materials, I use as an example Rae Armatrout's poem "The Way," about which I've written in an earlier entry here.
After we put up the Ezra Pound recordings, we got a raving fan note from poet Peter Gizzi (who has his own PennSound author page), and here is what Peter wrote:
I LOVE, I mean LOVE that Pennsound has put up all the Pound material. I have it all in bootlegs and tapes of course but it is wonderful to have it there, finally, I mean it is THE MOST OUT there of anything on that site or ubu web! EP is the best. I used to listen to those tapes over and over in my car in the late 70’s when I was a teenager. To me it was Punk. And hearing it now it brings back summer and my youth! Listening to the Spoleto recording, maybe my fav for its restrained intensity, I am taken aback just how his late syntax has totally effected me. Liz and I were listening and we could hear my poem Homer’s Anger loud and clear for instance. Amazing. And Richard’s head note makes me want to listen further.