Reviews

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.

“[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 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.

'Sounds heard when the ear is pressed to the walls'

A review of Gaspar Orozco's 'Autocinema'

“Like the role Lynch plays in ‘Autocinema,’ this idea of projector and screen is refracted, complex, unanswerable. Whatever the projector is, the films land on unusual, intimate surfaces.” Image modified from a photo by WiNG on Wikimedia Commons.

The poem, like the air current in the diner, is “both precise and abstract.” It’s a physical space which we can relate to — the muggy air, the trembling page, the big window — but, as in much of Autocinema, it is also static: a mindspace where the reader herself is the “black ant imprisoned in a chunk of ice.” 

Know that all of Nature is but a magic theater, that the great Mother is the master magician, and that this whole world is peopled by her many parts. — Upanishads