Yedda Morrison, girl scout nation (Displaced Press, 2008), 100 pp.; Marie Buck, Life & Style (Patrick Lovelace Editions, 2009), 54 pp.—How do you make a girl? In their different ways, these two books address that question. Divided into three individually paginated sections, Yedda Morrison’s book functions as a kind of triptych.
Steve Dickison, Disposed (The Post-Apollo Press, 2007), 49 pp.; Erika Staiti, In The Stitches (Trafficker Press, 2010), 39 pp.—What is the significance of symmetry as a manifestation of proceduralism? This is one of the questions Dickison's book and Staiti's chapbook address in relation to private and public, personal and social, bodies. For Dickison, the penchant for writing is, as it was for a tradition preceding and succeeding Freud, inescapable from neuroses modified into acceptable behaviors. These are posed against another meaning of disposed, those “others” for whom English is a second language (“may I use please your phone to carry some speech?”), for whom law and order is meaningful force (“what brand of people come invested in/plastic handcuffs?”), so easily reduced to the noun (disposal), the excrement of the social.
Nico Vassilakis, Letters of Intent (self-published, 2013), 140 pp.—As one of the foremost practitioners of vispo, Vassilakis has been a proficient stylist and spokesman for the “movement.” Nonetheless, this collection of his work raises questions about the interzone occupied by vispo producers. In a recent interview Vassilakis makes it clear that vispo is neither art nor poetry. As a “bastard child” of both, vispo, for Vassilakis, is about the digital manipulation of the letter in order to foreground its visual properties.
Fred Moten, The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), 93 pp.—Moten’s third collection of poetry is an extension of the ideas and values not only in his Hughson’s Tavern (and to a lesser extent, in B. Jenkins) but also in Harmony Holiday’s Negro League Baseball and Erica Hunt’s penetrating, if overlooked, chapbook, a Day and its Approximates. The particular trajectory traced by Moten’s work reaches back to the fiction and, more important, essays of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, their mutual (though differently inflected) insistence on the “invisible” resources and resourcefulness that constitute Negro culture. In this regard, black culture, more or less the engine behind cultural nationalism, black power and the Black Arts Movement, is sometimes plagued by, for Moten, a kind of forgetting. However, perhaps because Holiday is younger than Moten, her work is more wistful, almost nostalgic, for the persistent, if dwindling possibilities, proffered by Black Arts. Moten’s most recent exploration of these ideas, The Feel Trio, is more defiant than his previous books and Holiday’s book, though that defiance may also be read as an oblique acknowledgement that African American culture, like black culture before it, is too plagued by a forgetting of its own history.
David Brazil, The Ordinary (Compline, 2013), 230 pp., $15.00—In his unpublished manuscript Residual Synonyms for the Name of God, poet Lewis Freedman makes this typically canny observation: “Thanks… thanks to the naked advancements of Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Paul, Origen, and Augustine… we cab our way to social functions on paved roads under the Big Scribe. Heathendom and idolatry as weapons… this is a teaching used by a priestly clan to restrain a lower class, assimilated by parable at the manifold points around skin.” This “condition,” a product of history (not human “nature’), summarizes the matrix, or one of the matrices, from which David Brazil’s thought emerges as presented in this collection of (mostly) previously published chapbooks.