Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dusie Kollektiv 2011

This year's Dusie Kollektiv chapbooks are now online at This year's kollektiv features contributions by:

Bill Allegrezza * Hugh Behm-Steinberg * Lynn Behrendt * Cara Benson * Jaime Birch * Tilla Brading * Jessica Brehney * Ross Brighton * Lee Ann Brown * Naomi Buck Palagi * Juliet Cook * Sarah Anne Cox * Meredith Clark * Caroline Crumpacker * Maria Damon * Michelle Detorie * Jennifer K Dick * Lara Durback * Betsy Fagin * Jennifer Fortin * Susana Gardner * Carmen Gimenez Smith * Kiala Givehand * Harry Godwin * Giles Goodland * Michelle S Gould * K Lorraine Graham * Arielle Guy * Jared Hayes * j/j hastain * Larkin Higgins * Ming Holden * Jen Hofer * Carrie Hunter * Megan Kaminski * Kirsten Kaschock * Christine Kennedy * Friedrich Kerksieck * Andrew Koszewski * Becca Klaver * Rebecca M Knotts * Frances Kruk * Mark Lamoureux * Dana Teen Lomax * BJ Love * Anna Moschovakis * Catherine Meng * James Maughn * Nicole Mauro * rob mclennan * Jenn McCreary * Peter Manson * Nicholas Naughton * Dawn Pendergast * Michelle Naka Pierce * John Pluecker * Deborah Poe * Chris Pusateri * Marthe Reed * Sarah Rosenthal * Michael Ruby * Kaia Sand * Kathrin Schaeppi * Susan M Schultz * Anne Lesley Selcer * Sandra Simonds * Ash Smith * Jill Stengel * Bronwen Tate * Scott Thurston * Mark Wallace * Carol Watts * Elisabeth Workman * Vincent Zompa

Saturday, October 22, 2011

from Gloss by Giles Goodland (Dusie, 2011)

At first glance, the cover art of Giles Goodland’s from Gloss suggests a fixed position. The front cover is a detail from a map, and on the back is a list of coordinates for a number of international cities. For reasons I cannot articulate, this cover art brings to mind something Derrida once said about how the self is situated in language, and how there can be no self, indeed no idea of self, without the language by which the self is expressed.

This vision of self is best observed in a young child who is still navigating the difficulties of speech. He treats language not as something separate from the world, but as something of the world: not as a system over which one achieves mastery, but as a practice that one undertakes without knowing what its consequences will be. As we age, literacy teaches us that language has rules; those rules impose distance and estrange us from the very world that language seeks to illuminate.

Goodland sets out to bridge the distance imposed by these normative rules. Flipping to the first page of from Gloss, we see a list of phrases, each beginning with a specific letter of the alphabet. On closer inspection, we see that Goodland’s idiom is sprinkled with neologisms formed by the combination of several root words:

                    Timesweeper, minesleeping erasearcher.

This line can be parsed in many ways, depending on where one places emphasis or breaks the syllables. For instance, timesweeper (time sweeper, time’s weeper), minesleeping (mine sweeping, mind sleeping, mind leaping) erasearcher (era searcher, erase archer, eras ear sure). The longer one stares at these lines, the more unstable the words become: they break apart, drift and coalesce, like tectonic plates. In a militant move against stereoscopy, the reader of Goodland’s text must misread and disread, often pushing the poems headlong towards nonsense, returning language to its most playful and primordial form.

The sonic elegance of this text amplifies these strategies of syncopation. Many poems use cadence as a carrier wave to propel the reader through the text, but the rhythms of from Gloss are more tidal than linear. Goodland’s permutations push the reader forward, only to yank her rudely back, like the undertow of the receding surf. No sooner is one line complete, than its words reconfigure themselves, necessitating a re-reading. Meaning, as Goodland’s poem indicates, can only find its expression through a continuous process of starting forward and doubling back.

A friend from San Francisco once pointed out that people in large metropolitan areas tend to measure distance by using units of time. In other words, even though San Francisco is only ever ten miles from Oakland, its actual distance varies, based on factors like traffic congestion. Therefore, Oakland is much closer to San Francisco at night, when traffic is sparse, and becomes farther away in the morning, when millions are en route.

Goodland’s chapbook achieves a similar effect: it transposes space and time, and in doing so, makes from Gloss a potentially infinite text. How complex or simple, how long or short the experience, depends entirely on the reader.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Collection by Megan Kaminski (Dusie, 2011)

Surfing Goodreads the other morning, I ran across the following description of Megan Kaminski’s Collection: “Suburban terror poems that explore what happens when narrated identity becomes unbearable.” Like many poets, I love a good existential dilemma, so this initial description—whether considered or haphazard, accurate or misleading—served as more than mere description. It was the first line of the book.
Having now read the chapbook in its entirety, I must play devil’s advocate and ask: do I really believe that Collection is a work rife with anxiety over its unbearable narrated identity? The short answer is no. If I’m being honest, I must admit to something quite different: that I read Collection as an inquiry into the urban pastoral, one that rejects the idle tourism of the flaneur in favor of a mode that retools the idea of the urban particular.

Many of the poems in Kaminski’s Collection consist of two stanzas: to one side are a series of one- and two-word lines which form a small column, and on the other side are larger text blocks comprised of longer lines. Although the small pillar of text may be read as a continuous line that descends down the page, I saw it as a discrete, free-standing list of short phrases and objects. Consider the following passage, with its juxtaposition of the vertical and the horizontal orientations.

carryall                  Yellow jackets announce our surrender to the
slick zero               city’s daydream afternoons almond-cookies
abilify tree            ducks in the park banks rove the river pockets
ducks squawk      empty palms flowering purple-blue we planted
spend late             watched shoots spring imagined
hours sun              deeper roots stirring subterranean insects
bent corner           we do not discriminate between the living and
store spent            the dead hold my handbag it’s almost time

When presented with a page that has two bodies of text—one larger and one smaller—there’s a tendency to devote one’s attention to the larger stanza at the expense of the more diminutive one. Read as a list, the tiny lines of the left-hand stanza might be viewed as little more than gloss, a caption to the action taking place in the larger, more phrase-based text body. But the longer I read Collection, the more convinced I became that these tiny lines, so deceptive in size, actually played a central role in the book.
If indeed there are “no ideas but in things,” then Kaminski challenges this received wisdom by selecting objects that are resolute in their thing-ness—not simple desktop shortcuts to big ideas or movie screens upon which human judgments are projected, but metaphors for how one is dreamt by the city when the telescope is turned backwards. In short, the urban particulars of Kaminski’s city are not porous props, awaiting authorial intervention, but autonomous objects that populate the visual field.
These objects also serve to anchor the action of the longer sequences, slowing the pace of the book. All too often, urban poetry becomes caught in the city’s slipstream and seeks to mimic its frenetic pace. The effect is one of extreme transience, where the montage moves at such a clip that the particulars disappear altogether. The poems of Collection, on the other hand, exhibit presence, are less hurried, are more deliberate, are perhaps more real for being grounded in this way. This forced slowdown allows Collection the audacity to declare that “this afternoon is for wasting,” if by wasting we mean paying attention to those things we’re taught to ignore, the innate syntax of the city.