Reviews

New sentimentalism

A review of Julie Carr's 'Someone Shot My Book'

When viewed as acts of intimacy, reading and writing put “one on the edge of an outside of whatever one figures oneself already to be” — a claim that prompts the poet-scholar Julie Carr to conclude, in the final line of Someone Shot My Book (2018), that “all writing is epistolary.” All poems, then, are as if written in the manner of Emily Dickinson, “on the paper she used to wrap flowers in, or sent in letters.” All poems are addressed to a dear. Indeed, for Carr, “writing is almost always grounded in intimacy, and when it’s not, it begins to lose energy.”

When viewed as acts of intimacy, reading and writing put “one on the edge of an outside of whatever one figures oneself already to be” — a claim that prompts the poet-scholar Julie Carr to conclude, in the final line of Someone Shot My Book (2018), that “all writing is epistolary.” All poems, then, are as if written in the manner of Emily Dickinson, “on the paper she used to wrap flowers in, or sent in letters.” All poems are addressed to a dear. Indeed, for Carr, “writing is almost always grounded in intimacy, and when it’s not, it begins to lose energy.”[1]

The spectral resistance

A review of 'The OBU Manifestos'

Right: IWW ‘One Big Union’ sticker from the 1910s. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A few weeks ago I went into the city to see a revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1974 play Travesties, in which Henry Carr, an elderly English civil servant, looks back on his time as a diplomat in Zurich in 1917, where he was witness to the various antics of James Joyce (composing Ulysses), Tristan Tzara (fomenting Dada), and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (plotting communist revolution).

An archive of feeling

A review of 'The Bigness of Things'

Left: The second issue of Steve Abbott’s ‘Soup’ (1981), where the phrase ‘New Narrative’ was first coined.

On a Friday night in October, a fine collection of people I do and do not know assembles in the ballroom of the Omni Commons for a marathon reading organized in conjunction with the New Narrative conference at Berkeley. The conference is titled Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today and feels aptly named.

On a Friday night in October, a fine collection of people I do and do not know assembles in the ballroom of the Omni Commons for a marathon reading organized in conjunction with the New Narrative conference at Berkeley. The conference is titled Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today and feels aptly named. In this grand room, we convene together as a ragtag and motley crew, an intergenerational community built around shared desires to connect with one another, to experience the body and its emotions together, to throw our queer longings into the fray as one.

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