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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 »

 

Life in a Box is a Pretty Life

In Dawn Lundy Martins challenging, evocative, necessary new book Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books), she offers smart, frank, actual living thought that seeks to destabilize and illustrate some of the ways that black female subjectivity continues to be framed by mis/conceptions and mis/representations of the black female body. And what do we really know about the black female body? Though never explicitly posited in her book, this question floats as a central premise around her pieces and requires us to consider the ways that representational violence, colonial history, and ongoing gender and racial prejudice continue to shape psychic realities today. Through her strong engagement with visual arts, Martin also furthers the incredible dialogue that authors such as Tisa Bryant, Deborah Richards, Urayon Noel, and Roberto Tejada are also contributing… read the full review »