A stingray doesn’t know the word for “pathetic.” A saintdoes not care if prayer renders her pathetic. Poets are pathetic because they devote themselves to form in the face of formlessness. (Are they? Do they?) These kinds of formulations and queries arise in reading Pathetic Literature, the momentous anthology edited by Eileen Myles and released by Grove Press in November 2022.
A stingray doesn’t know the word for “pathetic.” A saint does not care if prayer renders her pathetic. Poets are pathetic because they devote themselves to form in the face of formlessness. (Are they? Do they?) These kinds of formulations and queries arise in reading Pathetic Literature, the momentous anthology edited by Eileen Myles and released by Grove Press in November 2022.
At first glance, Kerri Webster’s lyrical, lushly allusive Lapis and Jana Prikryl’s restrained, architectural Midwood make unlikely interlocutors — but both these 2022 collections situate themselves in the selva oscura of midlife and conduct their readers across the rough ground of fresh grief and ambiguous loss. Reading these two collections in dialogue offers a rich yield.
At the beginning of chapter 6 of Poetics of Liveliness, titled “Clouds,” author Ada Smailbegović engages in an “experiment of description” aimed at enacting the “vaporous dynamics” of the Blur Building, a temporary media installation that drew up the waters of Lake Neuchâtel to spray into being an architectural structure composed entirely of water vapor and mist. Smailbegović’s experiment is respiratory, a tidal form of positive feedback intensified through a litany of movements, forms, and visuals that part
According to Merriam Webster, the word is “a term of uncertain meaning found in the Hebrew text of the Psalms and Habakkuk carried over untranslated into some English versions.” Hypotheses abound: it could be a liturgical-musical mark, an instruction to “stop and listen,” a blessing meaning “forever,” an injunction to destroy bad people, or maybe an instruction to delete language that crept into a psalm and should be skipped. Some, including the authors of The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, interpret it as “exalt.”
In Laura Walker’s psalmbook, this word appears: first, large and lowercase, on the page where ordinarily you’d find a dedication, and then another three times in the book, including in the last poem.
When I was a baby adult and even broker than I am now, I participated for pay in a study at a university that involved lying in a creaky old MRI machine, hooked up to two dozen electrodes that monitored my brain and systematically inflicted pain on my arms. My task was to look, via a tiny mirror, at a screen that displayed a blue square, then a red circle, then a blue circle, then a red square, or whatever, while the scientists applied a particular intensity of punishment as an accompaniment to each. I lay on my back contentedly and “rated” how much it hurt on a scale of one to ten.