Tuesday, November 01, 2016

It's Alive! The Mathematic Sublime: Writing About Poetry

My new collection of essays and reviews is out now: The Mathematical Sublime: Writing About Poetry. (Those of you who are scared of math—count me as one—shouldn't be put off by the title: I guarantee, no equations!)

What's in it, you ask? Well, taking a leaf from Bob Archambeau's book (or rather, his blog, in which he describes his new book—published under the same imprint as The Mathematical Sublime, and featuring a shocking similar cover design—what I like to call "MadHat/Clarendon"), here's a rundown of the contents, so that you can find out what I have to say about your favorite poet or poetry critic:
[In which I explain how I came to poetry and to the various poets I write about, and what the whole "mathematical sublime business is about]

            1. Reviews

The Condition of Hebrew: Geoffrey Hill, Speech! Speech!
[In which Hill is compared to Bruce Andrews, but then I take that back.]
A Tinkertoy Poetics: Charles Bernstein, All the Whiskey in Heaven
[Holy smoke! FSG has published a selected Charles Bernstein that isn't particularly user-friendly for typical FSG types!]
Kedging in Time: John Matthias, Kedging
[John Matthias continues being one of the most important late modernist American poets.]
The New Colossus, Revisited: Jonathan Barron and Eric Selinger, Jewish American Poetry
[Jewish American poetry has been slighted; Barron and Selinger gives us a gigantic gumbo of evidence that it oughtn't be.]
Passionate, Eccentric Reading: Norman Finkelstein, Not One of Them in Place
[Finkelstein offers a more focused genealogy of Jewish American poetry: can you say "Post-Objectivist"?]
By the Rivers of Babylon: Maeera Shreiber, Singing in a Strange Land
[Shreiber gives Jewish American poetry yet another look, this time with a focus on the religious element.]
Zuk and Ole Bill: The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky
[These letters are too important not to have been published already; shame WCW didn't save LZ's letters to him more often.]
A Poetics of Being: Peter Nicholls, George Oppen and the Fate of Modernism
[In this massively important book, we learn that Oppen never really read Hegel, but that he didn't need to.]
Scars and Fascination: John Wilkinson, Proud Flesh and Lake Shore Drive
[Wilkinson's poetry—even twenty years between these two collections—remains harsh, repellant, and fascinating.]
Resignation and Independence: Robert Archambeau, The Poet Resigns
[A smorgasbord of critical forays; the close readings are more convincing than the broad generalizations, but it's nice someone is making the latter.]
Twilight Gardening: Ronald Johnson, The Shrubberies
[Old men tend their gardens; old poets writing garden poetry.]
Postmodern Poetry’s Blue Period: Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Blue Studios
[DuPlessis makes the essay new; and thinks eloquently about what's at stake in doing that.]
Innovation’s Explainer: Peter Quartermain, Stubborn Poetries
[Nobody writes about weird poetry better than Quartermain, but can't we have a little fun?]
The Book of Oz: Ronald Johnson, ARK
[New edition of ARK! and why that's a very good thing.]

            2. Essays

Susan Howe’s Hauntologies
[Susan Howe, Shakespeare, Jacques Derrida, Ghost Box records, Harry Smith's Anthology—whole lotta hauntin' goin' on.]
The “half-fabulous field-ditcher”: Ruskin, Pound, Geoffrey Hill
[Yes, Pound was a Ruskinian (without knowing it), but Geoffrey Hill knows it; gratuitous swipes at Cesare Pavese along the way.]
The “net / (k)not – work(s)” of Robert Sheppard’s Twentieth Century Blues
[Sheppard writes a book which wants to be a hypertext, or maybe a labyrinth.]
“I am not an occultist”: Robert Duncan’s H. D. Book
[No, Virginia, modernism was not a sweeping of the decks of late-Victorian fustian, a hygiene of language; it was a bunch of occultism and a big carnival of table-rapping seances. So sez RD.]
The Master of Speech and Speech Itself: Nathaniel Mackey’s “Septet for the End of Time”
[An early essay on an early Mackey chapbook; still very fond of this piece.]

            3. 100 Poem-Books

[From the pages of Culture Industry itself, 100 micro- (and sometimes a bit longer) reviews of poetry books. Robert Christgau's "Consumer Guide" must have been somewhere in my mind writing these, but I don't assign letter grades. Mostly I don't write about what I don't like, though a few have crept in. Your book is probably noted here.]


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