[Part One of the Quartermain essay can be found here on Poems and Poetics. His complete view of Eye of Witness will appear early in 2015 in the twentieth issue of Lou Rowan’s Golden Handcuff’s Review, a major repository of poetry & poetics moving from one century & millennium to another.]
Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott, Decomp (Coach House Books, 2013), 135 pp. $24.95 CAN, $22.00 USA—Full disclosure: I am quoted toward the end of this book and cited in the notes. The introduction by Jonathan Skinner sets up one of the central issues addressed in this collection of poems, prose and photographs: “How did we get from some bodies to somebody? Decomp takes the text best known for exploring this question, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and subjects it to an experiment to find out how we get from somebody back to some bodies.” The experiment was ostensibly simple: Collis and Scott placed five copies of Species in five distinct ecosystems in British Columbia and left them there for a year before returning to document — via photographs and their own ruminations — what remains.
C.J. Martin, Unused Cover (Portable Press, 2013), 2012 (Supersuperette), Two Books (Compline, 2011)—Full disclosure: Martin cites me in the index of his reading influences and practices. Although I’m going to focus almost exclusively on Martin’s Compline book, the two recent chapbooks are crucial parts of his overall project insofar as the book itself is composed of work largely available in chapbook forms. This history would coincide seamlessly with much contemporary publication practices were it not the case that Martin takes up this bigger-is-better scheme (see my previous review of Donato Mancini’s Buffet World) as the subject of almost all his work.
Donato Mancini, Buffet World (New Star Books, 2011) 119 pp.— Like the asemic-semiotic procedures that drove Mancini’s 2007 book, Æthel, Buffet World, for different reasons, is utterly readable but almost impossible to read. Lurid as the rainbow-brushed, cartoonish, photographs and illustrations of meats, vegetables, and fruits, appetizers, snacks (cookies, potato chips, etc.) and “main” entrees that function like exclamation points, these hypostatized poems on the commodification and industrialism of food deliver devastating, mocking and irreverent right-left (as in boxing) combinations.