Michael Leong

Post image for Testing Form: Novels by Alejandro Zambra and Matías Celedón

Solely in geographical terms, Chilean culture has issued forth from a matrix of constraint. The Argentine writer Ezequiel Martínez Estrada remarked that “Chile is perhaps the most poorly located and poorly shaped nation on the planet.

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Post image for Antithetical Poetics: Recent Books by Joseph Donahue

Among contemporary American poets, Joseph Donahue is an underrecognized master. For years, he has been accumulating a prodigious body of work in which a searching vision and a refinement of craftsmanship combine.

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Post image for Coldness, Concept, & Convention: On Aaron Kunin’s ‘Cold Genius’

One current, and especially heated, debate animating the contemporary poetry scene revolves around conceptual poetry’s polemic against Romantic expressivity.

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Post image for The Languages of Bernar Venet’s Conceptual Poetry

Since the outset of his career, Bernar Venet has been an inveterate experimentalist, an intrepid worker in a surprising variety of media. “People know my sculptures, of course,” he says, most likely referring to the monumental steel arcs that have garnered him international renown, “but they don’t know my paintings, my photographs, my films, my poetry and the music I have made.

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Post image for Rats Build Their Labyrinth: Oulipo in the 21st Century

The Oulipo, short for the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle [Workshop for potential literature], was founded in Paris in 1960 by two polymaths: Raymond Queneau, a former surrealist known for writing Zazie in the Metro, and François Le Lionnais, a mathematician and engineer.

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Afton Wilky’s Clarity Speaks of a Crystal Sea (2014)

To immediately grasp the innovative nature of Afton Wilky’s debut volume Clarity Speaks of a Crystal Sea and to begin to appreciate its exploration of language’s materialities and its playful stretching of the conventions of the codex form, one need only consider its front cover.

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Post image for Genet Redux: On Chris Tysh’s ‘Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic’

Chris Tysh’s Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic is, as the title suggests, a revision, or better yet, a re-sounding, a twenty-first century echo of Jean Genet’s transgressive and groundbreaking debut novel Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs, which he drafted in prison in 1942 and framed as a kind of playful, metafictional autobiography.

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Post image for Found Sounds, Found Stories: Andy Mister’s Liner Notes

Andy Mister’s recent book ‘Liner Notes’ captures the intimate texture of a consciousness that interacts with both the boring mundanity of an everyday work routine and the drug culture that, to some, is associated with an artist’s life.

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Post image for Geography Lesson: Lytle Shaw’s Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics

Lytle Shaw’s Fieldworks is a big and ambitious study that is a welcome addition to the dense, unruly, and relatively unmapped field called “postwar poetics.”

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Post image for Long on Ambition: The Public Poem in Books from Rachel Levitsky and Andrew Zawacki

According to Mark Edmundson’s uncritically nostalgic and, by now, notorious article “Poetry Slam: Or, The Decline of American Verse,” which was published in the July 2013 issue of Harper’s, “[o]ur most highly regarded poets—the gang now in their fifties, sixties, and beyond” (such as Sharon Olds, Robert Hass, and Mary Oliver) are, despite their lyric gifts, in a state of bland and unambitious decadence. “At a time when collective issues—communal issues, political issues—are pressing,” argues Edmundson, “the situation of American poetry … [is] timid, small, [and] in retreat.” As can be expected, a range of commentators have already taken Edmundson to task for his gross overgeneralizations and his extremely parochial and outdated understanding of the contemporary scene, but I would like to use his provocation as a starting point and foil to discuss what I take to be one of the most exciting trends in post-millennial American poetics: the importance and evolution of the long poem.

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