Model City

The experience of reading Donna Stoneciphers Model City is to be incrementally encompassed by a world built from repeated structures and phrases, a world that fosters our own growing attentiveness as the poet responds to the urban world. The phrase that opens the book and begins each of the four stanzas of a prose poem on each page, it was like, anchors each step towards the model city that is so variously and uniquely described that it isnt Berlin although it often seems so, and isnt the other cities the acknowledgement page lists as places visited by the wandering poet: Letchworth Garden City, Eisenhttenstadt, Anniston, Alabama, Portolago, Le Corbusiers la ville radieuse, Tony Garniers la cit industrielle. For all its particulars, the book is not an address to a particular place, but a poetic quest for a… read the full review »


7 Days and Nights in the Desert (Tracing the Origin)

The Mojave, the westernmost desert in North America, stretches across interior southern California and most of southern Nevada, a vast landscape punctuated by a few hard-scrabble towns and suburban cities. As a child living in Los Angeles I routinely went there on camping and climbing trips, but also to search out abandoned sites and dumps, hunting for colored glass that had been scratched and worn by the desert wind. Our neighbor had homesteaded a property in the desert outside Twenty-nine Palms, California, but lost track of it over the decades. I tried to find the house, but was never able to determine its exact location, the structure she built in the 1940s long gone. This pattern of building and loss is not atypical: many travel through on their way east or west, but few have stayed.

Over a century ago,… read the full review »


Citizen: An American Lyric

Therapy is exhausting. Bringing everything that is uppermost out for someone you pay to respond makes you doubly vulnerable you relive traumas instead of repressing them, and you rely on a guide for empathy and reason as they support your attempt to make sense of what happens to you and how to change it. Not only do you voluntarily re-experience pain, but also your guide may well resemble a source of your traumas:

When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house! What are you doing in my yard?

Its as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You… read the full review »


The Albertine Workout by Anne Carson and Loom by Sarah Gridley

Poetic responses to the world include, of course, responses to other art forms, ekphrastic poetry in response to a painting or sculpture, and responses to works of literaturepoems, novels, or essays. Poets have often taken up dialogue with significant writers from the past, as ways of acknowledging or purging influence, of ventriloquism, of a search for origin or the emptiness in its steadfor multiple and I suspect, mysterious reasons that produce a variety of different texts. For me, the strange power and excitement of reading closely while writing occurs as ones own lines warp or skew in unexpected directionsin part, taking on the other and enlarging vocabulary, tone, perception, access to sounds, sentences, obsessions.

The possibilities are multiple and can be engaging and demanding for readers who must juggle, switch, remember, assess, at least two singular texts created by authors/readers… read the full review »


Performative Criticism and Against Conceptual Poetry

I recently participated in a panel discussion on the topic of performative criticism at REVERSE, the Copenhagen International Poetry Festival held at their LiteraturHaus. My co-panelists were Danish-Norwegian critic Susanne Christensen, Swedish critic and poet Magnus William-Olsson, and Danish writer Kamilla Lftstrm. The conversation was reasonably lively, focusing on performative criticism as a critical phenomenon, most often seen in the wild: critics deploying what could be called, for lack of a better handle, themself as part of their critical apparatus. The choice of the grammatically incorrect singular is of course intentional, for the self that is critically performed is a self whose unity comes forth in the purported disjunct (or performed disjunctification) between the person and the critic (or the author as I and the authorial I). So far, so postmodern-y good. Theres a certain metafictional-metaphysical comfort in… read the full review »