Polyverse by Lee Ann Brown


despite all the homages and collaborations (the latter dubbed here her CoLabs) and her obvious interconnected-ness to her poetry community, Brown is a very singular, sonically super-powered poet.

the book charts the poet moving from a natural lyric with a consummate, perfect touch to a far-out experimentalism of sound (in a museme) which then seems to settle into (or temporarily rests, taking on the appearance for the moment of mastered maturity), in daybook, something teasingly wise and emotional.

early you get poems like the “Pledge” :

“I pledge allergy to the flail of the United States of Amigo
And to the reputation for which it stands,
one national park, under godmother, indivisible,
with lice and kabob for allegiance”
(p. 36).

and then the defense/offense of her method in “To Jennifer M.,” :

“What’s with these people
boys or girls who tamp down
the lyric impulse, the heart
waiting in line, barefoot &
illegal. Old-fashioned emotion
is relegated to a loud radio
void sometimes, but Frank O’Hara
has faith in you & me even
though or because we’re girls”
(p 67).

throughout you’ve also the talent for aphorism, as in:
“If we all looked alike
How would we fall in love?”
(p. 120)

the “museme” pieces i don’t love, but it’s hard not to like things like this a little:
“O Oil Loci
I Loll, I Coo,
I coil olio.

Lo, O ill ici,
Cool C.O.
Col. Clio”

by book’s end it seems a synthesis between the museme experiments and a natural lyric has been made, e.g. here’s the first bit of “Summery”:
“An undone tropic fell too lush
A canyon climb a bird a thrush
A tea before the ending hitch
The sprite from hell said smoke the bitch

I wandered lonely in the midst
of poets conversing not quite kids
and many lovers ex and all
chasing through the water


As leaf to leave to lavish to laugh
A gape gaffed taped onto dinner mapped
I batter the dough of those who wert
pommeled to structures suturing work”

what she does (at least in part) is fulfill (or re-make or invent entirely independently) o’hara’s notion of personism. of which the great dada baby said:

“has nothing to do with philosophy, it’s all art. It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself)… It was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born.”

but in the end brown is making her own way while working the old questions:

“Reinvent love.
Can we reinvent love.
Why reinvent love.
Crush as a way of knowing.
Is it the only way of knowing.
It is a good way of knowing”

so, yea & verily, i think polyverse crushes, crushed me. do, if yer able, give it a whirl.


click here and scroll down for henry hill’s beautiful impossible-yet-possible portrait of the poet.

the poet Interviewed by C. Bernstein on his show Close Listening


buy it used or find it at your local library.

one! hundred! demons! by Lynda Barry


maybe after you read it should you give it to someone? you should! you should! why not share: demons + zen art therapy + the dialog of your childhood rendered perfect-like.

Barry talking about her work: “We think that we need to have an experience in order to write about it… Actually we’re writing in order to have an experience.”

her meditating monkeys.

fun-fact: lynda barry’s quarter filipina!

fun-fact: she dated ira glass!

Buy it used or find it at a library.

Amulet by Roberto Bolano


bolano’s characters are some of the most beautiful. they miraculously avoid sentimentality while achieving a too-beautiful-to-speak-of romanticism — though reducing them so is an error, that quality he gets really does tear me up…

his characters remind me of the vow of poverty monastics make. it isn’t a negative vow–at least not for the nun. it is in fact a positive one, one that moves the renunciate closer to the divine. bolano’s poets and losers and mothers are an equal type. and one way to describe his natural, moving, ecstatic and elegiac style is to say that it simultaneously shows the mundane and profoundly human while it recognizes and manifests the divine (or maybe better said: the cosmic).

AMULET is a slowly shifting machine, moving from a narrative built first on a natural and sad and graceful character development into a kind of modernized persephone-in-hell myth then into a creepy symbolic tale (though for what is hard to say) and finally into a long description of an icy, abstract landscape.

i probably didn’t do a good job assigning the sections descriptions–and i missed a few–but there are distinct parts to this novel. and bolano gently leads the reader (and virgil and dante are explicitly mentioned) through these passages, a series of subtle changes. the book is one long song describing the horror story (that the narrator proclaims will not appear to be a horror story, but is, nonetheless) of living through history–in this case latin america’s revolutionary 60s and 70s.

here’s one paragraph, within which bolano seems to convey succinctly and impossibly some of the tumult of that era. a phone call is made asking about arturo (a boy who has gone from mexico to chile in 1973 to ‘take part in the revolution’) (and where he barely escapes execution):

“One night, at a party in Colonia Anzures, propped on my elbows in a sea of tequila, watching a group of friends trying to break open a pinata in the garden, it occurred to me that it was an ideal time to call Arturo’s place. His sister answered the phone. Merry Christmas, I said. Merry Christmas, she replied sleepily. Then she asked where I was. With some friends. What’s with Arturo? He’s coming back to Mexico next month. When exactly? We don’t know. I’d like to go to the airport, I said. Then for a while we said nothing and listened to the party noises coming from the patio. Are you feeling OK, his sister asked. I’m feeling strange. Well that’s normal for you. Not all that normal; most of the time I feel perfectly well. Arturo’s sister was quiet for a bit, then she said that actually she was feeling pretty strange herself. Why’s that? I asked. It was a purely rhetorical question. To tell the truth, both of us had plenty reasons to be feeling strange. I can’t remember what she said in reply. We wished each other a merry Christmas again and hung up.” p.76.

find used or find in a library

The Ship by Hans Henny Jahnn


the intro namechecks both melville and giorgio de chirico and the book indeed is an odd combination of nautical metaphysics and surrealism’s insidiously creepy emptying out.

an intense mystery story, not unlike the slow build-up of a bela tarr movie. in places it moves at a wild pace like a murder story’s final confrontation or a chase scene; other times it lingers endlessly over each character’s neurotics and guilt and anxiety–everyone in it an active raskolnikov. (and maybe the book is one long crime and punishment minus the denouement–just accusations and guilt.)

i did find myself a little struck by tedium midway through, waiting as the horror story set up itself–but then man, did i get walloped by the ending. it certainly leaves an impression…

and other than this overall, final and somewhat crushing impression, which is weighty and mysteriously achieved, the sentence-by-sentence style is what i think’s also most memorable about it. (even so, it’s a sum greater than its parts.) but here’s but one early example:

“We have witnessed the horrible again and again, a transformation no one could foresee. A healthy body is run over by a truck, crushed. Blood, once secreted, once feeling its way blindly through the body, pulsating in a meshwork of thin streams, spreading the chemically charged hormones and their mysterious functions like a red tree inside man–this blood now runs out shapelesssly in great puddles. And still no one grasps that, in a network of veins, it has form. But even more horrible–the death struggle itself, in which the innumerable organs, which we believe we feel, take part. Terror is stronger in us than delight” (p. 32).

found thankfully through will schofield’s blog.

try to buy used or find at a library

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