Amy Paeth

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:

Filter, impose, trespass (PoemTalk #131)

Syd Zolf, 'Human Resources'

From left: Jeff T. Johnson, Whitney Trettien, and Amy Paeth in the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House.


Jeff T. Johnson, Whitney Trettien, and Amy Paeth joined Al Filreis to discuss a passage (pp. 73–79) from Syd Zolf’s Human Resources (Coach House, 2007). Human Resources offers a critique of corporate language as inimical to poetic language, yes — and yet Zolf strongly undoes any such easy distinction. The work insists on the reality of nonsubjective language, managing to coerce this aspect of meaning up to the writing surface so that we can no longer repress its inhumanity even as we inevitably find ourselves seeking the poetry in it.

On the convergence of war and wedding (PoemTalk #70)

Laura Mullen, 'Bride of the New Dawn'


Amy Paeth, Michelle Taransky, and Steve McLaughlin met up with PoemTalk’s host Al Filreis to talk about one of the poems in Laura Mullen’s book Enduring Freedom: A Little Book of Mechanical Brides (Otis Books, 2012). Enduring Freedom is a coherent project; its poems constitute a series — a number of approaches to the problem of war’s strange but also surprisingly obvious and true convergence with weddings (and wedding planning in particular). The poem we chose is “Bride of the New Dawn.” Our recording of Mullen’s performance of the poem comes from a reading she gave in October 2012, in Berkeley, as recorded by Ross Craig; it was a reading in which she read fifteen of the Enduring Freedom poems.

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