Reviews

The products of labor

A review of 'lo terciario/the tertiary'

The Spanish and English texts are rotated 180° relative to one another, such that the bilingual reader, halfway in, would rotate the book upside down to read the collection in its entirety. Or — if you are an anglophone reader, like myself — you are made literally aware that you are reading only one half of the book.

los productos del trabajo tienen sus residuos.
a estos residuos les llamamos objetividad espectral. 
a esta objetividad espectral le llamamos mera gelatina. 
a esta mera gelatina le llamamos
cristalizaciones de la sustancia social común.

a estas cristalizaciones les llamamos valor.[1]

So begins “todas sus propiedades sensibles se han esfumado,” the opening poem of lo terciario/the tertiary, the newest collection released in May by Puerto Rican poet and translator Raquel Salas Rivera. Or it begins:

The beast that therefore I am

Eight recent poetry titles on the beast

“Living within the sacrifice zone, the beast becomes other even to ‘the animal.’” Above: illustration from page 396 of ‘The Marvellous Adventures of Sir John Maundevile’ (1895), via the British Library.

Eight poetry collections published in the past four years turn to the beast as an alternative way of inhabiting the world. This beastly turn has ontological, political, and aesthetic implications for how we theorize the relationship between poetry and personhood (and all of its Enlightenment-era baggage). This review explores both the impetuses and outcomes of these beast-filled encounters but stops short of offering a grand theory of “the beast,” as such a move would undermine the motivating reasons for embodying and embracing beasts as kin.

I have been a made thing & a hunted thing — Cody-Rose Clevidence[1

Runes in the noise menagerie

A review of Claire Marie Stancek's 'Oil Spell'

“… to find logical narrative in the ‘masscrash’ mindset … would be to yield to the grammatical hierarchy that engenders dehumanizing social structures — structures that objectify human subjects and contaminate land with oil.” Above: NASA Satellite photo of an oil spill on the Mississippi Delta, via Wikimedia Commons.

For Stancek, “conformism” refers to the linear patterning of English grammar as well as today’s most popular experimental poetics: she subverts all trends with poems that feel entirely new. Other topics include industrial and media pollution, covert drone wars, heterosexist oppression, and police brutality. Stancek montages visceral imagery related to each of these subjects throughout, implying that all such problems stem from the hierarchical social ordering inherent to the oil that fuels our industrialized minds and the greed that borders them.

“[N]ight escape[s] from the menagerie / song fragment”[1] of Claire Marie Stancek’s searing second book, Oil Spell. With occultist “opening noise” and irritated lyric, Stancek warns that “darkness spreads fucks        up borders between things” (8).

Disambiguating rape culture

Lynn Melnick’s nouns

Photo of Lynn Melnick (left) by Timothy Donnelly.

Gertrude Stein was wary of their tendency to fossilize meaning, even as she relished their potential to be magnetized: “Poetry is concerned with using with abusing, with losing with wanting, with denying with avoiding with adoring with replacing the noun.” Lynn Melnick’s Landscape with Sex and Violence takes up this ambivalent embrace of nouns in the space of rape culture.

Gertrude Stein never trusted nouns. She was wary of their tendency to fossilize meaning, even as she relished their potential to be magnetized: “Poetry is concerned with using with abusing, with losing with wanting, with denying with avoiding with adoring with replacing the noun.”[1] Lynn Melnick’s Landscape with Sex and Violence, eighty years later, takes up this ambivalent and vexed embrace of nouns in the space of rape culture, where adoring and wanting cross use and abuse as matters graver than grammatical concern.

What is poetry?

A review of 'What Is Poetry? (Just Kidding, I Know You Know)'

Left: illustration by George Schneeman on a 1974 booklet, via the Poetry Project.

Containing thirty-eight insightful and informative interviews with mostly innovative poets and a few non-poet fellow travelers, this big white book edited by Anselm Berrigan paints a clear picture of the Lower East Side avant-garde poetry scene. In these interviews, we are listening to the poets themselves, gaining an understanding of various avant-garde poetics straight from the horse’s mouth.

Containing thirty-eight insightful and informative interviews with mostly innovative poets and a few non-poet fellow travelers, this big white book edited by Anselm Berrigan paints a clear picture of the Lower East Side avant-garde poetry scene. In these interviews, we are listening to the poets themselves, gaining an understanding of various avant-garde poetics straight from the horse’s mouth.