Reviews

On textual cohabiting

Jocelyn Saidenberg's 'Dead Letter' and Brandon Brown's 'Top Forty'

What are the ethics of citation? Don’t all poems enter into the cacophony and babble of “the great conversation,” or to mix metaphors, that river of text, of jetsam and flotsam we all swim in and against? Still, to take up a gentle anachronism, we might ask, who sits at the table, and what is the etiquette of the host? How do you turn to your citation-guests? What do you offer? Two recent books, very different in subject matter and affect, take up this question — as both are explicitly addressed to other work(s) of art, inviting them, as it were, to the table.

'The Liberty of Horrors'

On Marie Buck's 'Portrait of Doom'

In a year when the politics of contemporary experimental poetry have come under renewed scrutiny (to put it mildly), Marie Buck’s new book, Portrait of Doom (Krupskaya, 2015), is timely. It’s a meditation on our contemporary political economic situation that refuses the temptation of leftist sigils, Invisible-Committee-light jargon, and ironized hysterics. Instead Buck roots her poems in a more elusive and spectral discourse that better captures the alienation, strangeness, and complexity of actual life within the folds of a collapsing neoliberal world order.

Between the world and the poem

On Dorothy Wang's forms and formations

The last sentence of Dorothy J. Wang’s Thinking Its Presence — “It must change” — is a call to action in its redeployment of the title of Marjorie Perloff’s 2006 MLA address.

Song is remedy for loss

A review of Tiff Dressen's 'Songs from the Astral Bestiary'

If I were suffering from some kind of loss in the ancient Hellenic world, I could travel to an Asclepion priestess at Epidaurus and spend the night in an abaton, or sacred space, to ride out my dreams after having been given a “sleep” cure suited to my specific needs. In her first book-length collection, Songs from the Astral Bestiary, Tiff Dressen devises her own abaton made of poetry, taking her reader on a lyrical journey via the dreamscape where song is remedy for loss.

Imaginative reading

A review of Hsia Yü's 'Salsa'

Of the Chinese avant-garde, Hsia Yü’s collections of poetry exemplify and perplex. The author of Pink Noise (2013), translated by Steve Bradbury, Yü had a new volume in translation released by Zephyr Press in 2014 — though originally published in 1999. A millennial dreamscape, Salsa asks its readers to follow the logic of order and the everyday so that they may become unfamiliar and distorted, the purl becoming unpurled. In the first poem of this collection, Yü predicts the journey of the book: “Lovers [fall] to the status of kin.” She thwarts expectations and familiar images of heartbreak.

Of the Chinese avant-garde, Hsia Yü’s collections of poetry exemplify and perplex. The author of Pink Noise (2013), translated by Steve Bradbury, Yü had a new volume in translation released by Zephyr Press in 2014 — though originally published in 1999. A millennial dreamscape, Salsa asks its readers to follow the logic of order and the everyday so that they may become unfamiliar and distorted, the purl becoming unpurled.