You've probably already heard that David Foster Wallace took his own life on Friday.
Some Publishers Weekly poetry reviews, so you know what's out:
Saga/Circus Lyn Hejinian. Omnidawn (IPG, dist), $15.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-890650-34-6
This pair of new long works from the California-based experimental poetry master (The Fatalist) makes a fine introduction to her current powers. Hejinian—admired in avant-garde circles since the 1970s—combines epistemological investigations with deft jokes. “Circus” is both prose poem and experimental, nonlinear fiction: named characters (Sally Dover, Quindlan, the talkative Askari Nate Martin) chase one another through short nonlinear chapters (one sequence includes, in order, “Chapter Two,” “Chapter One,” “Chapter 3 and Chapter Two,” “Chapter Between” and another “Chapter Two”). Sometimes kids, sometimes gossipy wives, sometimes circus performers and sometimes figures in a whodunit; these are characters meant to dismantle expectations, in quotable sentences and baffling passages reminiscent of Gertrude Stein: “Quindlan refuses to recognize anything as a digression, to take a suggestion, to accept a designation.” Less whimsical and perhaps more profound, “Saga” comprises 37 numbered free-verse segments: each imagines a long journey on a seagoing vessel as a figure for poetry, history, life. Along with Hejinian’s usual canny smarts, this newest long poem includes unexpected Romantic aspirations, with nods to Wordsworth and Coleridge: Hejinian, or her persona, says she “felt uprooted even/ At an early age perhaps from gods, my deities/ Were streaming/ Or grinding like a boat being hauled over stony ground.” (Sept.)
The Heaven-Sent Leaf Katy Lederer. BOA (Consortium, dist.), $16 (64p) ISBN 978-1-934414-15-6
The 45 almost-sonnets in this second collection from Lederer (Winter Sex) meditate on money and commerce (“The earth is a dollar and the moon is a silvery coin”), wondering how to find meaning as a cog in a capitalist machine. At times, the poems yearn to be free of big business, but the vibrancy of this series is found in the viscous push-pull between money and Eros; the tension sings (“I’ve brought you all these presents which I’ve placed beneath this/ flowering tree:/ Bright red box, bright blue box, and a small vial of Botox”). In an era when business asks, “Who stole my cheese?” these poems are populated with superbly chosen allusions to finance and literature. “Heaven-sent Leaf” comes from Goethe; “Brainworker,” the title of several poems, was coined by the influential economist J.K. Galbraith. Nietzsche and Lyn Hejinian, among others, also appear. At times, Lederer’s verse is sparkling, though a meandering prosiness sometimes flattens the lines. But at her best, Lederer combines musical lines with excitingly jerky leaps of thought, claiming for poetry a fact that usually seems farthest from it: “There is, in the heart, the hard-rendering profit.” (Oct.)
State of the Union: 50 Political Poems Edited by Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $14 (144p) ISBN 978-1-933517-33-9
Politics are on everybody’s mind. Wave editors and poets Beckman and Zapruder enter this slim gathering of poems—charged with cynicism, seething, sadness, surrealism and schadenfreude—into the discussion. From big names (John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton) to contemporary favorites (Terrence Hayes, Peter Gizzi) and newcomers (like Mathias Svalina, whose “Forgiveness” is a highlight: “This is a lesson on/ forgiveness: the scar/ forgives the knife”), many of these poets come at politics with hip aesthetics and liberal leanings. In her spare, affecting opener, Noelle Kocot writes, “Look at the landscape,/ A lot of damage, no?” Matthew Rohrer, addressing Dick Cheney, admits “it is a very good thing/ to watch you die.” Yet many of these poems seem reluctant to answer what may be their central questions: What exactly is a political poem? What is a poet’s responsibility toward politics? What can a poem accomplish? Or maybe the uncertain attitude often on display is a kind of answer for an America where it’s become so hard to trust or tell what’s going on, where, as Joe Wenderoth says, we must look to “transparency after transparency/ adorning whatever it is that moves us/ no closer to knowing.” (Sept.)
I'm reading this right now:
by Kevin Young
To get me ready for this reading tonight:
KGB Monday Night Poetry Reading Series—FALL 2008
Monday @ 7:30 PM
Admission is FREE
September 15 Janice Erlbaum & Kevin Young
Hosted by Michael Quattrone, Laura Cronk & David Lehman
KGB Bar • 85 East 4th Street • New York, NY 10003
I'm going to post below the first email I received this morning. It's from my old roommate, and he cc-ed me on a job application he just submitted. This is not a joke, that's all I have to say:
Subject: Foot Model Job
I am writing to express my interest in the position of painter's foot model. I have years of experience as a nude figure drawing model and am uniquely suited to the position because my feet are not only large, hairy and white, but also unusually well-formed. Each of my toes bears its own tuft of fine black hairs. I am an amateur painter myself and enjoy the ambiance of the artist's studio, if you would permit such a generalization. My personality is easy going and predisposed to quietude. I am available indefinitely for weekend sittings and am currently employed part time so I could manage some weekday sits as well. My head and foot shots are attached along with my résumé. I look forward to hearing from you.
I have nothing left to say.