Tuesday, October 28, 2003
I often wonder what other poets are reading, especially since so many
good books I've read have been suggestions made by others.
So I decided to e-mail some poets, ask them what they are currently
reading, and to give us one-sentence reviews.
Below is the collected list, hope it inspires your reading.
Many thanks to the 90+ poets who responded,
READING THE ILLEGIBLE, by CRAIG DWORKIN
(Northwestern University Press, 2003)
BRUCE ANDREWS: How to Read --- as 'how to read noise': a triumph!
The Spiritual Emerson: Essential Writings. Ralph Waldo Emerson,
edited by David M. Robinson.
Jeffery Beam: How sad that the America of possibility
didn't grab hold of Emerson's spiritual and philsophical
visions as tightly as it did to the greedy capitalist
vision of the robber barons.
TALES FROM OVID, by TED HUGHES
Michele A. Belluomini: Rendered in muscular free verse,
Ovid's pitilessness is astonishing and very modern.
VAS: An Opera in Flatland, by Steve Tomasula (with StephenFarrell)
Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 2003
Charles Bernstein: Vas is an encyclopedic quest for
three-dimensional thinking in a two-dimensional quaquaverse
of clonedgeneticists replicating racialist double blinds; with
striking visualaplomb, Vas casts the factoids off the steps
of the Temples of the Predetermined into the yet-to-written
name of errant possibility.
A Tall, Serious Girl, by George Stanley
Anselm Berrigan: It is a beautifully made selected, and
it is really great. He has this intensity of feeling that
does not require emotional declarations to be felt, and he
is funny as shit. The poems are also technically brilliant,
and inspiring that way.
AL QAEDA AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE MODERN, by John Gray
Edmund Berrigan: Essential book for understanding recent
events on historical, global, and economic scales.
European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, by E.R. Curtius.
Daniel Bouchard: a compelling book on medieval rhetoric!
The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slave Passes to
the War on Terror, by Christian Parenti
JULES BOYKOFF: In this book Parenti unleashes a
powerful theoretical/empirical concoction that
explores the evolution of surveillance in U.S.
society and how technology has bolstered this
evolution, in the process dipping into a variety
of historical troughs, from the use of slave passes
to the early use of photography to the recently
de-funded Total Information Awareness (TIA), and,
if I may make this an egregious run-on sentence,
Parenti deserves extra credit for giving
poet/theorist/writer/teacher Jeff Derksen
a shout-out in his acknowledgement section.
Brief Capital of Disturbances, by George Albon (Omnidawn Books)
Brandon Brown: through deceptively journalistic
attentions, the book takes the form of a city or
a body suddenly made aware of its own musical strangeness
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Lee Ann Brown & Tony Torn: When pictures of personal
history mixed with the history of a city, an ethnicity,
ect ect can seem almost cartoonish yet so fucking real,
I read it every night and watch the genes splice in
Love Like Pronouns, by Rosmarie Waldrop
Laynie Browne: Visceral thought composed with a
voice I look to for advice of all kinds.
Head Massage: Soothing Massage For Stress, Headaches and
Low Energy, by Rosalind Widdowson
Regie Cabico: One cute guy who massages all the women...
wishing there was male frontal nudity.
The Monster Lives of Boys and Girls, by Eleni Sikelianos
Allison Cobb: A long unwinding world that startles at
every turn, amazing.
Magic Mushrooms: From Toad Slime to Ecstasy,
edited by Paul Krassner
Andrei Codrescu: A delightful collection of first-person
essays about experiences of being high on various psychedelics.
This is the third anthology in a series: the first one was on
pot, the second on LSD.
Bottom: On Shakespeare, by Louis Zukofsky
Barbara Cole: Big, bold and beautiful; encyclopedic
and entropic; a critical blow to critics before and
after; a tour-de-force; a force to be reckoned with;
this: my humble and heart-felt recommendation.
Trilogy, by Pentti Saarikoski (translated by Anselm Hollo)
John Coletti: should knock knit socks off sensitive,
brash, complete environments sheeped off in some other
The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, by Audre Lorde
Ebony M. Collier: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde is
interesting because the editors published multiple editions
of the same poems that she had published in her different books.
sKincerity (KRUPSKAYA press), by Laura Elrick
CAConrad: beautiful poems that don't take any shit!
"I am an employee so adjacent to the other parts---Young women
set out with hard-set jaws against their
*Stars In My Eyes*, by Edward Field
Jeffery Conway: A cool book of movie poems from 1978;
"The Life of Joan Crawford" is my favorite--I'd like
to see Faye Dunaway recast as Joan and bring the poem
to everlasting life on the big screen.
Vinegar Tom (a play), by Caryl Churchill
Cori Copp: You know what they say--"cat symbolism" and all
The Complete Claudine, by Colette
Jim Cory: I had foolishly imagined that Colette's first
four novels, gathered here in an omnibus edition, would
be something close to juvenalia & have discovered instead
that they are as brilliant, vivacious, & insightful as any
of her later productions.
Tinder, by Lynn Behrendt (situations press)
Brenda Coultas: Tinder is a slim gift of elegy and
beauty along with innovative forms.
Some Values of Landscape and Weather, by Peter Gizzi
Robert Creeley: This is a breakthrough book in every
way -- for reader, for writer, and for the art.
Creating True Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Maria Damon: Hardly time to read poetry right now beyond
what i've assigned for my classes; i find this book soothing
amidst pressing professional obligations: reading conference
papers i've agreed to comment on, reading for my classes
(Brathwaite, Jabes, Boyarin, Gilroy, Cesaire) and reading
students' response to those readings, reading memoes from
univ bureaucrats about the pending AFSCME strike (and
whether we are or are not obligated to cross the picket
lines) ...shoutout to beleaguered fall semesterers everywhere!
FROM MY LIFE: Poetry and Truth (Parts One to Three),
Vol 4 in the Princeton Collected Works, by Goethe
Jordan Davis: which has been sitting on my shelf
for years, and which I understand is one of the original
art autobiographies; apparently he intended to sketch out
the endings of works he feared were unfinishable, such as
Faust Part Two, and to justify his many self-transformations
to his astonished (exhausted?) friends -- or so
the introduction tells me.
ENDOCRINOLOG, by MEI-MEI BERSSENBRUGGE & KIKI SMITH
TOM DEVANEY: People do not use sentences anymore; so
there's no sentence for the coincident of focus, which
is the dense spirit of this book.
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, by Andy Warhol
Buck Downs: I don't know whether I should hope that Conrad
has or hasn't read The Philosophy; I hope he hasn't but mostly
for greedy reasons, in that turning a friend onto some wack
that s/he hasn't had before is one of the great joys in what
passes for the life of the mind that I lead.
BAD JUDGEMENT, by CATHLEEN CALBERT
Denise Duhamel: Cathleen Calbert's smart bad girl sass is
irresistible--BAD JUDGMENT is the book you'll want to reach
for after the hairdresser cuts your bangs too short, after your
boyfriend tells you about his wife, after you ate that second
piece of cake.
Gasoil, by Jean-Michel Espitallier
Marcella Durand: Lots of Machines and Monsieurs--ixometres,
cerviometres, elaio-pachometres and "explosifs chlorates"!
The Language of Inquiry, by Lyn Hejinian
kari edwards: a wonderful introduction to the
brilliance of Lyn Hejinian
The Prelude-The Four Texts (1798, 1799, 1805, 1850), by William Wordsworth
Laura Elrick: At first a verdant summer pleasure and antidote to
knee-jerk disjunctionitis, which next ripened lustily into historical
curio (i.e. how the hell did industrial urbanism and an incomplete
(bourgeois) revolution spawn him?), then 'matured' into an autumnally
over-ripe object-lesson on (how not to) right-ward drift during reactionary
times (ahem)...with cool parallel texts to boot.
False Prophet, by Stan Rice
Elaine Equi: This is a book of spooky, disjointed psalms
that walk a tightrope between faith and doubt -- I found
them oddly comforting, fitting reflections of our dark times.
THE BRIAR PATCH, by MURRAY KEMPTON
Brett Evans: About the agitations and arrest of 19 Black Panther
members in NYC and their subsequent legal travails, what's really
fantastic here is the author's smart brushwork on the micro-intrigues
of the events in question which also tell the fine bristles of human
personality, and his elaborate, almost impossibly-holding-together
sentences which would make Yeats proud of their elegant rigor.
THE FIFTH BOOK OF PEACE, BY MAXINE HONG KINGSTON
MARIA FAMA: I am both dazzled and inspired by
Maxine Hong Kingston's luminous writing and her
personal courage and commitment to peace.
Compelled to Crime the gender entrapment of battered black women,
by Beth E. Richie
Mariana Ruiz Firmat: A book that demystifies our ideas that
all women who are oppressed suffer equal forms of oppression
in a racist, capitalist, homophobic, prison obsessed country.
SAMSON AGONISTES, by JOHN MILTON
DAISY FRIED: Never having done a Milton class in school,
I've been reading Milton on and off for the past few years
for the fun of it; I loved Paradise Lost, loved Comus, loved
Lycidas; am loving Samson: Milton is magisterial and humane
and exciting to read; that old iambic pentameter spine wrapped
in all these supple lyric-narrative muscles (is that a horrible
torturing of a disgusting metaphor?) that feel like they can do
and say almost anything; also I'm interested in speech--in
characters saying things out loud--in poetry old and new and
the dramatic-poem format in Samson Agonistes has formal
constraints and human utterance pulling interestingly
against each other.
Weep Not, My Wanton, by Maggie Dubris
Greg Fuchs: The first story was disturbing, sad, and
grotesque; the last one I read in the North Brooklyn
Health Clinic, the perfect setting.
SPRING COMES TO CHICAGO, by Campbell McGrath
Joanna Fuhrman: I like this book because it combines a
Whitman-like drive toward excess with ironic pop culture
haikus and meta-commentary.
SOME VALUES OF LANDSCAPE AND WEATHER, by PETER GIZZI
ALAN GILBERT: Gizzi keenly renders our current--or is it
permanent?--state of exile from our better selves.
Rouge State, by Rodney Koenecke
Nada Gordon: K.S. Mohammad rightly dubs this book "a sordid
bordello" zingy ironic orientalism to the max--just my thing
"Dare Say" by Tod Marshall
Marj Hahne: Musicmusicmusic & original sensibility.
Nightswimmer, by Joseph Olshan
Jeremy Halinen: A novel about permanent loss, separation and
resulting obsession--it's made me FEEL.
Good Foot Issue 4
Shafer Hall: Good Foot is consistently inspirational.
The Lies of Goerge Bush, by David Corn
Sam Hamill: The truth will out, but can we save our
country from a fascist government?
Roloff Beny Interprets in Photographs Pleasure of Ruins,
by Rose Macaulay
hassen: The coffee table book that puts almost everything
Mortals, by Norman Rush
Bob Holman: Leaps into prominence -- writing detailed,
exhilirating, obsessive -- there's Joyce plus in here,
folks (one of the greatest fuck scenes in lit)
-- "difficult," ha! -- and it doesn't hurt that it's
Poetry, Language, Thought; by Martin Heidegger
Candace Kaucher: I've begun to feel the presence of
poetry as life again.
SOME VALUES OF LANDSCAPE AND WEATHER, by PETER GIZZI
Kevin Killian: Peter Gizzi's best book to date is a
shifting, oppositional panoply of colors, scents, tones
and fragrances that, like a kaleidoscope, opens up to a
different presentation of diamonds each time I open it
to my eye.
Poems of Paul Celan, translated by Michael Hamburger
Dan Maguire: Not knowing Celan's history, the poems are
powerful; knowing his history, they are almost overwhelming.
Book of Lies/The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult,
edited by Richard Metzger
Shelley F. Marlow: I was pleased with feelings being
articulated in the words, "force the hand of chance in
favor of self-creation rather than submissive reaction."
-Genesis P. Orridge.
Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth, Benedict and Their Circle,
by Lois Banner
Janet Mason: I like this book, I mean it's more than the fact
that Margaret was a dyke or at least a half-ass one in a bisexual
way, but it's the way that it fueled her work, this lesbian fusion,
like going off to so-called primitive cultures to find out that
heterosexuality, etc. wasn't the only game in town, go Margaret!
COROMANDEL (Skanky Possum, 2003), by Thomas Meyer
Joseph Massey: Meyer breathes new life into the new
sentence -- "In language's imaginary garden / the
forked tongue lisps."
MEMOIRS, by WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN
C.M. Mayo: A cannon blast of blood, gore & grit from the past.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER, by JAMAICA KINCAID
CHRIS MCCREARY: I've been rereading this in preparation for
teaching it a second time - a wonderfully lush, imagistic
collection of stories that approach coming-of-age issues
from many unique, challenging directions.
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Dierdre McKee: This book is like a nightmare you don't
want to wake up from, and when you do, you realize that
the same nightmare is happening in the "awake" world.
THE SECRETS OF THE VAULTED SKY, by DAVID BERLINSKI
THOMAS MEYER: A science maven takes a serious look at a once
credible body of knowledge, astrology, in an attempt to explain
why it fell from intellectual grace.
TRANSNATIONAL MUSCLE CARS, by JEFF DERKSEN
CAROL MIRAKOVE: Jeff's new book offers downright
elegant -- and funny! -- arguments against empire /
emperors (remember "consumption" as disease?),
fighting the language-forms that erode our intelligence
(the slogan, the soundbyte) with those very same language
forms, in a range of poetic configurations as the body
intercepts / intersects, i'm taken, the visceral.
Pegasus Descending: A Book of the Best Bad Verse,
edited by James Camp, X.J. Kennedy, and Keith Waldrop
Ange Mlinko: I'll bet you didn't know Emily Dickinson wrote
the line "His Mighty Balls--in death were thick--"
(from "A Dying Tiger--Moaned for Drink").
RUMI, Past and Present, East and West (The life, Teachings
and Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi), by Franklin D. Lewis
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore: It's a huge book, scholarly,
authoritative and exhaustive in its many facets, written
in a swift and personal style, and the author even says
of Robert Duncan's(!)Rumi-inspired poem for Jess,
"Circulations of the Song," "To my taste, this is the
closest and most satisfying approximation in the English
language of the experience of reading Rumi's
ghazals in the original Persian."
The Aeneid, by Virgil
Eileen Myles: I was reading it in Ireland and Italy, and
slowed down when I got home (and it's slow, so slowing down
is really stopping) but I mean to pick up again--it's brilliant
--for one, because you finally know what the judgement of
Paris means-- I thought it was some art term, and I'm sure it's
the title of one or many famous paintings, but really it just
means that Paris got to choose who the most beautiful woman was
and he picked Helen, not Dido and Athena--something like that--
and of course the women were in a rage about not getting picked
number one--same old story--but I never knew what it meant--it's
an inspiring book despite the fact that Virgil was a misogynist
--one chapter is just the description of someone (maybe Aeneas')
shield--and it's covered in story, so the chapter is an allegory
--it's great, an idea machine, this book.
GONE, BABY, GONE, by Dennis Lehane
Alice Notley: I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who wasn't
being treated for Hepatitis C or an equivalent disease.
Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises 1923-1934, by Ulla E. Dydo
Tom Orange: Almost thirty years in the making, this book shows
the fruits of the long hard hours Dydo has spent with Stein's
papers at Yale, her goal a dauting one, namely to find out "how
Stein wrote what she did" -- not only offering exemplary evidence
of/in the writing (and especially interesting to me personally
since I am better acquainted with the Stein of the preceding
decade, Tender Buttons and Geography and Plays and the like)
but perhaps ultimately raising an even more important point,
namely that we are still only beginning to learn how to read
Stein, and will continue to be beginners until, for example,
we can get the 8 volume Yale Gertrude Stein back into print
let alone reliable texts for her complete works -- how long
will this take?? -- and then maybe one day, as has been long
available for Joyce, facsimile editions of her cahiers and carnets.
CALLIGRAMMES, by GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE
RON PADGETT: This book is different than it used to be.
Love: New Visions, by bell hooks
Wanda Phipps: This is a volume that's opening my heart with
its strong, simple, elegant prose redefining love as not simply
a feeling but a transformative force that can motivate profound
spiritual growth, political action and lasting social change.
Plasticville, by David Trinidad
T. Cole Rachel: David manages to take every seemingly
useless bit of pop-culture fluff from the last fifty years
and turn it into a book of sweet, funny and smart poetry.
Kenneth Koch/Selected Poems : 1950-1982
Ethel Rackin: It includes "The Circus" from Thank You
as well as "The Circus" from The Art of Love where
Koch revisits the poem and decides that the second
version isn't as good (which it is!)
The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels
India Radfar: Do you know the Romans called early Christians
atheists? that puts things in perspective...and martyr simply
_Haiku: This Other World_, by Richard Wright
Don Riggs: These haiku, written in the last 18 months of
Richard Wright's life, are universes of experience packed
into tiny 17-syllable nuggets.
THE VERY QUIET CRICKET, by ERIC CARLE
MATTHEW ROHRER: This book, like most children's books,
is nauseatingly repetitive, but very near the end Carle drops
his form and brings in a luna moth, and the effect on the
reader or the baby is astounding: it reminds one of the power
of repetition and of the power of confounding the reader's
expectations as well.
STAND-UP TRADEGIAN, by CHAIM BERTMAN
MATTHUE ROTH: A swift, flowing meditative novel
about writing a novel, which could have been terribly
self-referential if it wasn't so sparse, sharp, and
focused, at times funny and at others, quietly beautiful,
the kind of book that makes you realize how weird and
sudden the act of writing is.
Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the
Construction of the Underworld, by Clayton Eshleman
Jerome Rothenberg: For years I've followed Eshleman's
travels into caveworlds & labyrinths, with resultant
poems, essays, and musings, and this book brings them
together as the kind of ongoling project that makes a
life of poetry worth living.
The Collected Poems Of W.B. Yeats,
edited by Richard J. Finneran
John Sakkis: "I was talking with Stacy Doris a couple
weeks ago, I mentioned I was reading Yeats, specifically
"The Tower," she responded "did you know Yeats had his
wife surgically implant a monkey organ into him in old age
to increase virility, i responded, "i didn't know that."
DOVECOTE, by Heather Fuller
Leslie Scalapino: I've been rereading Heather Fuller's
DOVECOTE, a wonderful invention, poems being the outside
and inside of others at once.
Thank You For Not Reading, by Dubravka Ugresic
(trans. from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth)
Elizabeth Scanlon: This is a nonfiction/fiction/critical/satirical
collection of essays about the "industry" of publishing, which
I find esp. interesting and funny given her Eastern European
point-of-view on how fascist regimes everywhere attempt to
manipulate what is promoted as "good art."
Nine Alexandrias, by Semezdin Mehmedinovic (trans. Ammiel Alcalay)
Frank Sherlock: The Bosnian poet's American experience is
informed while reading Rumi on a 9/12 cross-country train.
the story of junk, by linda yablonsky
jeffrey sidelsky: amazingly clear eyed account of
a life lead as a dealer and addict in downtown NYC.
HERSELF DEFINED, by BARBARA GUEST
RON SILLIMAN: This is not an argument for canonization, but
rather a chilling examination of a major modernist who was every
bit as crazed & manipulative as her old boyfriend, Ezra Pound.
POETRIA NOVA, by Geoffrey of Vinsauf
Laura Smith: I am loving this weird little medieval
poetics/rhetoric manual, which conveys poetic values
from a time when "poetics" is a major school (and public)
discipline, all tied up with Latin grammar and rhetoric
studies, public talkers and language that stays.
The Shroud of Turin: the Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ?, by Ian Wilson
Sparrow: The Knights Templar passages are hirsute,
suspicious and ecstatic.
Dispositions, by McKenzie Wark
Brian Kim Stefans: Rare and brilliant voyage through the
interzone of the journal, poem and cybercultural theory--
easily one of the best books of poetry I've read in a few years.
Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
Chris Stroffolino: Beckett seems right now to be the
most HONEST writer I've ever read; I don't even read
him much; I read two pages very slowly and it forces
me to write; the writing a world that seems larger
than the "sum of its parts"
PERSEPOLIS, by MARJANE SATRAPI
GARY SULLIVAN: A riveting, beautifully illustrated memoir in
graphic novel form of the author's early life growing up in
Iran during the revolution and subsequent war with Iraq.
Indiana, Indiana, by Laird Hunt
Erik Sweet: it was amazing!
Girl Walks Into A Bar: A Memoir, by Strawberry Saroyan
ron P. swegman: "What makes this book significant is
the fact that the author is the grandaughter of a
legitimate, do-something celebrity -- author William
Saroyan -- and she herself worked as a staff writer
for some of the most high-profile print media in New
York and California."
Rimbaud, by Graham Robb
Cole Swensen: This relatively new biography is even-handed,
makes good connections to the poetry, and covers the later
years well---very funny too, in places.
SOMEPLACE LIKE THIS, by RENEE ASHLEY
J. C. TODD: If this were written in the Anglo-Saxon longline
instead of as a novel, it would be a neo-epic of loss and
reparation; the language has the fragmentary, human accuracy
of poetry, the sea is ever-present, and the voice of the
narrator is suffused with sorrow transforming into compassion.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night
Chris Toll: This book was published in 1961 - it was a
different world then - the stories weren't really scary,
they were just creepy and disturbing and droll.
THE NOSE, by NIKOLAI GOGOL
Mike Topp: According to a recent survey,
there are more than eight billion noses.
AMERICAN SONNETS, by GERALD STERN
EDWIN TORRES: I love where the details take me, how the
craft, directness and simplicity of the poems catch that
elusive insect of poetry which is to reflect while illuminating.
Maxine Kumin, by The Long Marriage.
David Trinidad: Such a joy when a poet gets better over time.
The Kurt Wallander mysteries, by Henning Mankell
Jonathan Williams: The Kurt Wallander mysteries are dour,
strange, and impossible to put down. I am reading the latest
to be translated from the Swedish: FIREWALL. Terrific.
Persepolis; the Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
Eleanor Wilner: Using comic strip form, this brilliant,
heart-scalding, at times hilarious book tells the story
from a child's vantage of growing up in Iran during the
Islamic revolution and the war with Iraq--a sharp vantage
on colonialism, fundamentalism, the Middle East and,
more generally, human folly, cruelty and resilience.
JACK THE MODERNIST, by Robert Gluck
Magdalena Zurawski: Existential Sex breaking into Gilgamesh.���r