My favorite thought experiment, run by analytic philosophers, is called The Brain in a Vat Argument. Imagine that instead of being the living, breathing body that you think you are, you are actually just a brain in a vat in a lab hooked up to a computer simulating the experience of a body and of an outside world. Think about it: how can you know for certain that this is not the case? Furthermore: given this uncertainty, how can you assume that any of your beliefs about the world and about your self outside the minds environment are true? If this sounds familiar, it is because the Wachowskis made a movie version of this. Swap in an evil demon for the human-controlling computers and youll see that Descartes has a version of this too. These scenarios are entertaining, yes,… read the full review »
Garments Against Women
Its hard to figure out exactly how to praise Anne Boyer, not because she doesnt leave copious evidence of brilliance, diligence, wit, and ethical rigor, but because I can think of no poet who has less interest in or greater distrust of the ideas of praise, brilliance, and all those wee glittering bourgeois items to be found in the gift bag of literary acclaim. Boyers writing is rewarding in the ways it smites the reader for wanting to be rewarded, but the exchange is never a hierarchical one; shes right there with the reader, thoughtfully guilty even as she makes her charges, assessments, and accusations, most of which manifest as the best questions anyone could possibly ask of the bad situation that is the present moment. Garments Against Women is a rich thicket, one bent of making the… read the full review »
Lazy Suzie is an ecstatic, often surreal exploration of the eyes ability to turn about, to travel out the window, into a painting, through the telescope, over the hills, through the images of a magic lantern or camera obsura, and off mirrors. Not only the eye itself, but perhaps more importantly, the minds eye as it conjures up history, fantasies and dreams. On each new page attention seems to gather loosely around a subject, but the text just flows on from one page to the next; a reader is pulled along encouraged to stay with it though one sitting. It is like being caught in a whirlwind, flying from fragment to fragment as objects cohere and then dissolve, come into view and then float away:
the ray emerges like an antenna, from the eyes, here, from the… read the full review »
A Swarm of Bees in High Court
black performance has always been the ongoing improvisation of a kind of lyricism of the surplus—invagination, rupture, collision, augmentation.”
Fred Moten, In the Break
A long nocturne, Tonya Fosters long-awaited debut collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court roves in and out of the dream of Harlem. This rich cityscape, pregnant with so much history and tension, floats through the consciousness of the poetic speaker, whose sleeplessness leads her into a series of meditations on memory, desire, and daily life. Her worries, dissatisfactions, and poignant joys take flight into song through the sonic pleasure of her word play and permutations.
A collection of thirteen pieces which includes a closing praxis statement on her text, the book progresses through a sleepless night, past dawn, and into day. Composed often in tercets, Fosters work… read the full review »
It is not a habit I would endorse, but sometimes I read poems as if they were records of actual proceedings, events provoked by circumstances other than those the poet occasioned simply for the sake of writing a poem. In other words, I choose to wonder who is saying this, to whom, for what reason; I make all verse occasional verse just to imagine what occasions declare themselves fit for the verse Im reading. If its a sort of game, its one that William Fuller seems to be playing already, achieving mystery by way of exactitude.
If theres a consistent mode Fuller occupies in Playtime, its that of explanation. This particular register appears so frequently it begins to inform even those poems that dont immediately or absolutely partake of explanatory cues. His speakers seem cautiously and seriously devoted… read the full review »