Friday, April 23, 2004

Things Just Got a Whole Lot More Interesting Around Here Dept.

New at the Bookery:

Philip Jenks, On the Cave You Live In (Flood Editions, 2002)
Ronald Johnson, The Shrubberies (Flood Editions, 2001)
Pam Rehm, Gone to Earth (Flood Editions, 2001)
Alice Jones, Extreme Directions: The 54 Moves of Tai Chi Sword (Omnidawn, 2002)
Laura Moriarty, The Case (O Books, 1998)
P. Inman, At Least (Krupskaya, 1999)
Benjamin Friedlander, A Knot Is Not a Tangle (Krupskaya, 2000)
Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Ogress Oblige (Krupskaya, 2001)
Laura Elrick, sKincertiy (Krupskaya, 2003)
Drew Gardner, Sugar Pill (Krupskaya, 2002)
Geoffrey Dyer, The Dirty Halo of Everything (Krupskaya, 2003)
Renee Gladman [did you know we were at Vassar together? I never met her], The Activist (Krupskaya, 203)
Hung Q. Tu, Structures of Feeling (Krupskaya, 2003) [re-order]
Rodrigo Toscano, Platform (Atelos, 2003) [re-order]
Brian Kim Stefans, Fashionable Noise: On Digital Poetics (Atelos, 2003) [re-order]
Lyn Hejinian, The Fatalist (Omnidawn, 2003) [re-order]
Rosmarie Waldrop, Love, Like Pronouns (Omnidawn, 2003) [re-order]
Rodney Koeneke, Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003)
Bill Mayer, The Uncertainty Principle (Omnidawn, 2001)
Liz Waldner, Etym(bi)ology (Omnidawn, 2002)
William Fuller, Sadly (Flood Editions, 2003) [I'd love to display this next to a certain Lyn Hejinian book]
Graham Foust, As In Every Deafness (Flood Editions, 2003)
Lorine Niedecker, New Goose (Rumour Books, 2002) [a gorgeous thing]
Paul Hoover, Winter (Mirror) (Flood Editions, 2002)
Robert Duncan, Letters: Poems 1953-1956 (Flood Editions, 2003)
Lisa Jarnot, Black Dog Songs (Flood Editions, 2003) [re-order]
Robin Caton, The Color of Dusk (Omnidawn, 2001)
Yedda Morrison, Crop (Kelsey St. Press, 2003) [re-order]
Katy Lederer, Winter Sex (Verse Press, 2002) [re-order]
Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Nest (Kelsey St. Press, 2003) [re-order]

plus three Lisa Robertson books I'm keeping for myself: Xeclogue (New Star Books, 1999), Debbie: An Epic (New Star Books, 1997, 2003), and The Weather (New Star Books, 2001).

Glancing at these titles in a recklessly generalizing state of mind, I find myself thinking about the avant-garde/experimental distinction. I think it's absolutely valid, which means that these authors, however radical in their textual practices (the Krupskaya titles are particularly notable for their anti-absorptive qualities, though their techniques and aims differ), are not avant-garde. Or at least that their texts are not self-evidently by-products of an anti-institutional praxis. But this does not erase distinctions: a small press with a unitary aesthetic vision is qualitatively different from even a university press, much less a commercial press. It's an institution of art but not synonymous with THE institution of art (if it's even meaningful to speak of such a monolith). Such a press is less oppositional than a-positional (to borrow a distinction from Jonathan Monroe's "Avant-Garde Poetries After the Wall"). I'm not sure if that helps to define what the social function of experimental writing may be, other than to speak broadly of forging new channels for the imagination to run down beyond the official ones. Meaningless pluralism? Perhaps not if we start calling experimental poetry critical poetry, or the poetry of critique, because its critical capacity (which often but not always means an active engagement with texts, modes, and arguments associated with social theory) is what distinguishes it from "mere" poetry (that which would necessarily include "official" and "mainstream" poetries, which otherwise have as strong a claim for answering the pressure of reality with that of the verbal imagination). Or as Ben Friedlander puts it:
Intellectual Labor

Your work
is all heart, mine
is mostly kidney,
purifying the blood,
producing piss.

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