Charles Bernstein

Notable Books (2005)

Will Alexander, Exobiology as Goddess (Manifest Press)
An exuberant excursion into the hyperreality of the cosmos. William Blake merges with Sun Ra in the ecstatic flicker of evanescent transience. This work blazes with an holographic imaginary that is our only defense against the Dark. The search for intelligent life on Earth begins here.

Pierre Alferi, Oxo, tr. Cole Swenson (Burning Deck)

Charles Alexander, near or random acts (Singing Horse)

David Antin, I Never Knew What Time It Was (University of California Press)

Paul Auster, Collected Prose (Picador)

Steve Benson, Open Clothes (Atelos)
Benson resumes his remarkable project of free-talking or improvising poems; here the formula is question after question. The result is conceptually impressive and virtuostic.

Jen Bervin, Nets (Ugly Ducking)
What Ronald Johnson did so magnificently for(or is to?) John Milton's Paradise Lost in Radi os, which has just been reprinted by Flood, Jen Bervin does to/for Shakespeare's Sonnets. In Nets, Bervin leaves the source text visible (light grey against the dark black of the foregrouned poem). Both an engagingly thoughtful commentary of the Sonnets and a elegant poem all on its own.

Taylor Brady, Yesterday’s News ( Factory School )

Gerald Bruns, The Material of Poetry: Sketches for a Philosophical Poetics (University of Georgia Press)
The Material of Poetry provides an incisive account of the philosophical engagements of some of the most formally radical poetry of our time. With edifying cogency, he transforms the ancient war of philosophy on poetry into an aesthetic and ethical alliance on behalf of freedom. In bringing philosophy back to poetry, Bruns finds the truth of things in the verbo-voco-visual plenitude of language.

George Buchner, Lenz, tr. Richard Sieburth (Archipelago Books)
An astounding work, magnificently translated. Written in the early 19th century by the author of Wozzek. Listen to the informative discussion with Sieburth on Cross-Cultural Poetics radio shown via PennSound.

Pauline Butling & Susan Rudy, ed.:
Poet's Talk
(conversations with Kroetch, Marlatt, Moure, Brand, Baker, Derksen, and Wah), from University of Alberta Press
Writing in Our Time: Canada's Radical Poetries in English (1957-2003) (Wilfrid Laurier University Press)
Writing in Our Time is an essential guide to a half-century of Canadian innovative poetry, providing a treasure trove of bibliographic particulars and chronologies, along with lucid introductions to a set of writers who have revolutionized the theory and practice of poetry. Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy anchor their study in incisive reflections on the dreams and realities of poetic communities, giving acute attention to the social and cultural determinations that structure even our most imaginary creations.

Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, Education by Stone, tr. Richard Zenith (Archipelago Books)
One of the most important Brazilian poets of the postwar generations (like Barbara Guest, he was born in 1920), Cabral continues to exert a strong influence on many younger Brazilian poets. As Régis Bonvincino wrote to me at the time of Cabral's death in 1999: "Along with Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Murilo Mendes, Cabral is considered the best poet of Brazilian Poetry born in the 20's."

Mary Ann Caws. ed., The Yale Anthology of Twentieth Century French Poetry (Yale)
This wide-ranging compendium of twentieth-century French poetry from Europe, Africa, and the Americas is indispensable for anyone interested in the art of the poem. From modernist classics by Apollinaire, Cendrars, Valéry, Senghor, Breton, Tzara, and Césaire, to new structures of imagination by Roubaud, Albiach, Jabès, Nöel, Brossard, Portugal, Collobert, Tenguour, Royet-Journoud, and a host of others, Mary Ann Caws presents poems of dazzling formal invention, emotional pitch, and thematic scope. This edition, with facing pages of French and English, and a set of illuminating notes preceding each entry, is generous, capacious, and captivating.

Paul Celan: Selections, ed. & intro. Pierre Joris (University of California Press) & Threadsuns, tr. Pierre Joris (Green Integer)
No twentieth-century poet pierces the heart of language with such an exquisite blade as Paul Celan. With Pierre Joris’ & company’s translations of key poems, poetics, letters, and exemplary commentary, it is as if we are reading Celan for the last time, once again.

Abigail Child, This is Called Moving: A Critical Poetics of Film (University of Alabama Press)

Wanda Coleman, The Riot Inside Me: More Trials and Tremors (Black Sparrow Books)
A welcome combination of poetics, autobiography, and polemic against official verse culture: lively, provocative, funny, and telling.

Jon Cook, ed., Poetry in Theory: An Anthology 1900-2000 (Blackwell)

Maria Damon & Miekal And, pleasureTEXTpossession (Zasterle)
Boisterous and engaging collaboration culminating in a visual tour de force, "E.n.t.r.a.n.c.e.d"

Craig Dworken, Strand (Roof)

Thomas Fink, After Taxes (Marsh Hawk Press)
Fresh, marvelously exuberant lyric wildness, picking up a bit on the sprung prosody of Ceravolo's Fits of Dawn and perhaps also from Coolidge's Sound as Thought. Of special interest: a set of "Yinglish" poems that bring the syntax of the Yiddish into the American lyric.

Norman Fischer, Slowly but Dearly (Chax)
Incandescently tranquil, the poems of Norman Fischer neither confront nor confirm, preferring to give company along the way.

The Allen Fisher Triple Jubilee:
(The Gig)
Place (Reality Street)
Fisher's work has been among the most challenging and unassimilatable of any contemporary poet; he has processed "information" through myriad structures, sending out reports in the form of radically dissimilar books and pamphlets, over a hundred in all. With these three large collections, some of Fisher's major works are being collected for the first time. No assessment of contemporary poetry is complete without taking Allen Fisher's work into account.

Rob Fitterman, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edge)

Louise H. Forsyth, ed., Nicole Brossard: Essays on Her Work (Guernica Editions)

Phillip Foss, The Ideation (Singing Horse)

Merrill Gilfillan, Small Wonders (Qua Books)

Peter Gizzi, Periplum and Other Poems (Salt)

Bill Griffiths, The Mud Fort

Kenneth Goldsmith, The Weather (Make Now)
It's raining poetry.

Ted Greenwald, The Up and Up (Atelos)
Greenwald never fails.

Barbara Guest, The Red Gaze (Wesleyan University Press)
Guest turns 85 this year. Her newest book exists in the starry firmament not only of her own best books but also many of the books listed here. Since Guest was unable to give live performances of the book, we arranged for a complete recording for PennSound. Go to PennSound to hear Guest's reading of The Red Gaze.

Mary Rising Higgins, )cliff TIDES((      (Singing Horse)
These beautifully patterned poems move shaped poetry into a new dimension as unsatiated meaning merges with tides of reanimating stammer. Until mars — reopen — the sky.

H. L. Hix, Shadows of Houses (Etruscan)
Hix’s measured, crystalline particles of everyday life melt, moment by moment by moment, into song.

Peter Jaeger, Ekhardt Cars (Salt Publishing)
Peter Jaeger's sprung lyrics and imaginary aphorisms have it sixteen ways:  they locate the body of the text in the mirage of the text's own vanishing, yet dazzling, illusions while enunciating the discrepant fictions that bare their truths in colliding images of constant possibility and irreparable elision.

Amy King, Antitdotes for an Alibi (BlazeVox)
Amy King’s poems think in association, evoking a world familiar but entirely unexpectable. Next to us all this turns and spins: under the veil of hum and drum is the paradise of possibility. This is a poetry of hope for a world shrouded by nearly and almost.

Melissa Kwansy, ed., Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry 1800-1950 (Wesleyan University Press)

Ann Lauterbach:
The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience
Night Sky is a multitiered defense of the aesthetic against the encroachments of violence and containment. In essays on poetry, the visual arts, politics, family, and friendship, Lauterbach dwells on the “as is,” articulating a poetics of the flaw as flux and of fragments as redemptive process. Against the reductiveness both of the literal and of rationalization, Lauterbach insists that “the inexplicable is inexhaustible.” The conditional, the possible, the precarious, and the complex are taken not as intellectual abstractions but as the very fabric of the sensuous experience of time, living under a night sky that has neither beginnings nor ends.

Hank Lazer, The New Spirit (Singing Horse)

Michele Leggott, Milk & Honey (Auckland University Press)
Impressario of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Center and author of Reading 80 Flowers, professor at the University of Auckland, Michelle Leggott continues to write complex lyrics, sampling thought and song, voice and vision.

José Lezama Lima , Selections, ed. & intro. Ernesto Livon-Grosman (University of California Press)

Tan Lin, BlipSoak01 (Atelos)
Tan Lin's new work sparkles with unoriginality and falsification.

James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry ( University of Chicago )

Stephane Mallarmé, A Tomb for Anatole -- Paul Auster's translation just reissued by New Directions, & new tr. by Patrick McGuiness from Carcanet.

Bernadette Mayer
Scarlet Tanager
(New Directions)
Indigo Bunting (Zasterle Press)

David McAleavy, Huge Haiku (Chax)

Mark McMorris, The Cafe at Light (Roof)
McMorris’s key works are The Black Reeds and The Blaze of the Poui,both from the University of Georgia Press, and now The Café at Light. In reading these works, I was struck by the intense, articulate, and splendid lyricism crashing against an historical and social imagination that never quite wants to be epic – that distrusts the grandiosity of epic – but which wants to gesture toward the epic. This “gesturing toward” is the chief rhythmic invention of McMorris and what drive all three works. 

Douglas Messerli, First Words (Green Integer)

Douglas Messerli, ed., The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century, vol. 5: Intersections: Innovative Poetry of Southern California.
Regional groupings of innovative poets pose a number of thorny, and therefore interesting, problems. See for example the remarkably engaging collection Another South: Experimental Writing in the South, edited by Bill Lavendar, and especially Hank Lazer's introduction, "Kudzu Textuality." Douglas Messerli takes on this issue with an intricate argument, confronting both the sense of place/nonplace in LA and environs and the history of poetry anthologies from the area. He ends up making a strong case for the affiliations between the poets included, from Jerome Rothenberg, David Antin, Michael Davidson, and Rae Armantrout, in San Diego, to Diane Ward, Harryette Mullen, Lee Hickman, Robert Crosson, Catherine Daly, Deborah Meadows, and Will Alexander, and others, in LA.

Peter Middleton, Distant Reading: Performance, Readership, and Consumption in Contemporary Poetry (University of Alabama Press)

Aldon Nielsen, Integral Music: Languages of African-American Innovation (University of Alabama Press)

Redell Olsen, Secure Portable Space ( Reality Street)

Jena Osman, An Essay in Asterisks (Roof)

Michael Palmer, Company of Moths (New Directions)

Nicanor Para, Antipoems: How to look better & feel great, tr. Liz Werner (New Directions)

Marjorie Perloff , Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, and Pedagogy (University of Alabama Press)
Perloff shows once again why she is the most readable -- and read -- critic of modern and contemporary poetry. In these “confessions of a close reader,” Perloff delights, cajoles, and informs, with astute essays on both the state of the art and the state of the humanities. From new scholarship on the modernist legacies of Eliot, Duchamp, Pound, Jolas, de Campos, and Wittgenstein to vibrant encounters with the newest writing of Armantrout, Howe, Silliman, Bök, Bergvall, Johnson, Kinsella, and Goldsmith, Perloff is an indispensable guide.

Pablo Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & Other Poems, ed. & tr. Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris (Exact Change)
While Picasso's poetic writing will always be overshadowed by his visual art, Rothenberg, Joris, & company introduce a largely unknown, but nonetheless major, modernist poet, whose word explorations stand on their own — and zig-zag and go topsy-turvy too.

Dimitri Prigov, 500 Drops of Blood in an Absorbent Medium, tr. Christopher Mattison (Ugly Duckling Press)
Dimitri Prigov re-imagines the blood of the poet within a startling series of conceptual vignettes that reveal the structures of adjacency and the possibilities of combination. Moscow’s master of the art of words hits the American ground in leaps and bounds.

Meredith Quartermain, Vancouver Walking (NeWest Press)

Adrienne Rich, The School Among the Ruins (Norton)

Amelia Rosselli , War Variations; tr. Lucia Re & Paul Vangelisti, afterword Pier Paolo Pasolini (Green Integer)

Jerome Rothenberg, Translations and Variations (Wesleyan)
Rothenberg shows that translation can be a goad to invent new forms, structures, expressions, textures, and sounds in the (new) poem being written. Translation is not a secondary activity to be subsumed under the name of its antecedent but an active working in the present, as original to Rothenberg as collections of his poems or essays. “What has come to us, then, at ground-zero,” he writes in his 1983 talk, :is the ecological and economic crises now upon us … The threatened wilderness is in our minds as well – in our homes and in our language. We are all endangered species, & the exploration of the depth of our endangerment some of us have called the work of the ‘new wilderness." Rothenberg’s “writing through” marks a flickering path of transitions to this new wilderness.

Lev Rubinstein, Catalog of Comedic Novelties , tr. Philip Meters and Tatiana Tulchinsky (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Lev Rubinstein's Catalog of Comedic Novelties is a poetry of changing parts that ensnares the evanescent uncanniness of the everyday. By means of rhythmically foregrounding a central device -- the basic unit of the work is the index card -- Rubinstein continuously makes actual a flickering now time that is both intimate and strange. Philip Meters and Tatiana Tulchinsky have created an engaging translation of a major work of contemporary Russian poetry. In the process, they have created a poem "in the American" and in the tradition of seriality associated with Charles Reznikoff and Robert Grenier.

Leslie Scalapino, ed. War and Peace (O Books)

Leslie Scalapino and Judith Goldman, ed. War and Peace 2 (O Books)

Ravi Shankar, Instrumentality (Cherry Grove Press)
Instrumentality plays expectations and delivers uncanny reformulations that seem "predestined , in retrospect." Ravi Shankar's poems are filled with the pleasure of subjects dissolving into ideas, ideas folding into sounds, and sounds echoing familiar but elusive translocutions.

Ron Silliman, Under Albany (Salt Publishing)
Under Albany is the shadow movement of Ron Silliman's epic of everyday life, The Alphabet. Silliman provides a set of extended, vividly etched, mostly autobiographical, meditations on the background for each of the original 100 sentences of his 1981 poem Albany. This constructivist memoir provides an exquisitely rich exploration of the relation of context to reference, subtext to meaning, back story to presented experience, and composition to poetics. All of Silliman's work unravels and reforms in this exemplary and exhilarating act of attention, recollection, and reflection.

Jonathan Skinner, Political Cactus Poems (Palm Tree Press)
If cactuses could talk, poets be out of work. In the meantime, Jonathan Skinner’s Political Cactus Poems are primers of attentive engagement; not only its pleasures and responsibilities, but also its animations and metamorphoses. It’s not just that we read what we see; Skinner imagines that we are read by what sees us. “Matter’s clatter” is the echo of unheard songs. In these poems, the saguaro drinks our words and leaves us thirsty for more.

Rod Smith, The Music of Honesty (Roof)

Gilbert Sorrentino, New and Selected Poems: 1958-1998  (Green Integer)

Heidi Lynn Staples, Guess Can Gallop (New Issues Press / Western Michigan University Press)
Clinamen? Sinner man? Cinnamon?  In her relentless pursuit of swerving meaning, Heidi Lynn Staples reinvents poetry word for word. Guess Can Gallop is a delight for ear and eye.

Juliana Spahr, This Connection of Anyone With Lungs
(University of California Press)

Eileen Tabios, I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved (Marsh Hawk)

Rodrigo Toscano, To Leveling Swerve (Krupsaya)

Elizabeth Treadwell, Chantry (Chax)

Chris Tysh, Cleavage (Roof)

Keith Waldrop, The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon with Sample Poems (Omnidawn)
Each new book of Keith Waldrop is a distinctive treat in its specific graviity and grave irony. I can't think of any American poet who has so consistenly provided delight, intelligence, charm, wit, and prosodic intelligence in so many divergent yet interconnected volumes.

Mark Wallace, Temporary Worker Rides the Subway (Green Integer)

Elizabeth Willis, Meteoric Flowers (Atticus Finch)

Geoff Young, Fickle Sonnets (Fuck a Duck c/o the Figures)

NOTABLE BOOKS (2005) lists full-length poetry/poetics books published over the past year or so. Posted: Summer 2005.
URLs for most of these presses are listed in the epc's alphalist. Make your dollars count: buy directly from the presses or independent bookstores & not from the chains or/of Amazon.