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Mechanical Brides and Theatrical Politics: Laura Mullen’s Enduring Freedom

In 2009, Stephen Burt identified a new poetics for the twenty-first century, a poetics that insists on a kind of phenomenological permanence and solidity, on a material “thingness” rather than a “showy insubstantiality.” In his widely read essay “The New Thing,” Burt argues that there has been a marked shift away from a poetry of “illogic” and “associative leaps,” which dominated the 90s, toward a poetry of “[r]eference, brevity, [and] self-restraint,” toward an aesthetic that “eschew[s] sarcasm and tread[s] lightly with ironies.” After judiciously analyzing an array of compressed poems by writers such as Jon Woodward, Devin Johnston, and Graham Foust and after connecting the New Thing’s concern with exteriority to the documentary modes of Mark Nowak and Juliana Spahr, Burt takes a preliminary stab at historicization…

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How (Not) to Write Like an Art Critic

CHICAGO — A friend who was in London recently went to see what was on at the Tate Modern, and at the end of his visit he did something I never do: he went into the gift shop and bought something. “I’ve got something to show you, Philip!” he told me on his return. My heart sank. Was it a set of dinner plates decorated with Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skulls? An Ai Weiwei themed board game? Some other piece of dreadful museum kitsch?

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The Meme After the Fall of The Tower of Babel

Susan Wheeler: God knows, as my mother would have said. I’m beginning to get an inkling, as I’ve been writing a series of poems that use her idiomatic expressions — she grew up in Topeka, and had a strong portion of Pennsylvania Dutch as well, but who knows where she got phrases like “busier than a cranberry bog merchant.” Other things, of course: a soft spot for “colorful speech,” attempts to “read” idioms in order to fit into a group or out of one, an awe of good talkers, especially those who use highly idiomatic speech, Catullus — (laughter) What does Armand Schwerner say? “Extension of the dramatic monologue into plurilogue.”

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Between The Past You Can’t Live In and The Future You Can’t Imagine

We know that the equation between word and thing can no longer be taken for granted, and that words are made up of both syllables and sounds. Does this mean a poet — one who uses transparent language and writes in an autobiographical mode — is incapable of exploring the conditions of meaning? By transparent, I mean a plain language that can be used to reach the largest audience possible without losing any relevant information. Or must the language the poet uses be opaque and resistant, like reality itself?

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The Subconscious Landscape of the Printed Book

As book lovers mourn the dematerialization of the printed word, rare booksellers like Heather O’Donnell remain upbeat. She’s part of an ardent group of believers — a new generation flame tenders who are dedicated to keeping books safe in the electronic storm of Kindles and Nooks. For the upcoming Designers & Books Fair 2012 (October 26–28), she has curated an exhibit of stellar printing and binding design over the past three centuries. It makes an eloquent case for the notion that beauty will keep the printed book alive.

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“The Wire” Gets Victorian in a Book by Fictional Scholar H.B. Ogden

Like the ever-present junkies on the TV show “The Wire,” fans of the acclaimed HBO series can never seem to get enough. Legions of viewers stayed glued to the tangled plot over five seasons — and their cravings were stoked for five years more through blogs, behind-the-scenes books, essays, college courses, and literally hundreds of scholarly articles and reviews. Now, on the show’s 10th anniversary, “The Wire” addicts can score a fresh fix with the arrival of the arch, smart faux-Victorian send-up of the series, Down in the Hole: The Unwired World of H.B. Ogden, by Joy DeLyria and Sean Michael Robinson (PowerHouse Books, 2012), based on a blog that went viral last March.

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I Read Banned Books …

Even though Hyperallergic is primarily a blog about art and visual culture, there’s no question that we’re also super nerds who read a lot. So I felt it would be remiss if we didn’t pay at least a short tribute to Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of books and literacy and the freedom for everyone to read whatever the hell he or she wants, which unfortunately is still more of an ideal than a universal practice.

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The Sore Subject of Family Dynamics

The family unit, siblings, extended family, and the individuals who make up these large trees, is the subject of photographer Lydia Panas’ hardback book of glossy, meticulous portraits, aptly titled The Mark of Abel. Thinking back on the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Panas’ clever reverse of the “mark” seems to imply that her subjects and viewers alike suffer Abel’s curse of brotherhood, fraternity, and family. It’s a rich theme for rich photographs, set in an Eden-like location of lush and overgrown greenery. Ninety-five pages long, containing fifty perfectly paced photographs, The Mark of Abel presents us with hundreds of strangers, all of whom feel bizarrely familiar. Panas’ family portraits are tender rather than sentimental, serious though not cynical, and dysfunctional without being cliché.

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Booze Muse: Kingsley Amis, the Laureate of Hangovers

Here is a fun literary experiment: substitute the words ill or illness in Virginia Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill” (1930) with the words hung-over and hangover . It works, right? “Hangover is the great confessional”; “In a hangover words seem to possess a mystic quality”; “Incomprehensibility has an enormous power over us in a hangover.” And so on. But the best bit is this: “To hinder the description of hangover in literature, there is the poverty of the language. English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache.”