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Posted inBooks

Call and Response: Kathleen Fraser’s “movable TYYPE”

Although Kathleen Fraser has long divided her time between San Francisco and Rome, her most recent collection, movable TYYPE (Nightboat Books), reminds us of her poetry’s New York roots. She glosses the title of the volume’s first poem, “Orologic,” as proposing “a particular time frame for entering memory-life, NYC mid ‘60s / Lower East Side,” and recalls the intoxication of “new push-back urban energies delivered via paint, dance and music specifically American-made as in John Coltrane, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer, Joe Brainard, Joan Mitchell…. Sentences dangled in one’s ear of such surprise you could only seek the solitude of your journal and try to break the code.” What Fraser has taken to transcribing in her poetry is not emotion recollected in tranquility but rather a particular fluttering of the nerves, carried over into the act of writing.

Posted inBooks

Tuning In: Devin Johnston’s Verse Seeks to Fill the Nothing with Song

The title of Devin Johnston’s fourth book of poems, Traveler, might suggest that the work will offer some series of narratives about moving from place to place. To be sure, the poems are generated by specific sites, from the Scottish Highlands to the American midlands. Yet, what characterizes these poems is an imagistic intensity and precision that evokes the process of engaged concentration, particularly in regard to the natural world.

Posted inBooks

The Verse That Could Happen: National Poetry Month to the Rescue?

A couple of months back I was sitting in an East Village dive bar enjoying, oh, I don’t know, my third or fourth whiskey (it was Tuesday, after all), when I noticed a very attractive girl next to me committing what appeared to be lines of verse onto a yellow notepad. Hang on, I thought: a fetching young poet sitting next to me in some blighted Manhattan grotto? What movie are you in, buddy? I stole a second glance. True enough, there was her pen scribbling curtly on the paper, and there were the one or two-word stanzas — illegible, from where I sat — filling up the left-hand side of the page in cursive, like the lines of an EKG.

Posted inBooks

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

Once when I was breaking up with a girlfriend, she told me, “You act like a nice guy, but really you’re not.” Or maybe she said, “You pretend to be a nice guy,” I can’t quite remember. Anyway, I was taken aback. Would it be better to just habitually act like an asshole, rather than trying to do so as little as possible? Although I know my capacity for niceness is, like everyone else’s, limited, I try to cultivate my better qualities to the extent that I can. But then, what if, as a result, someone mistakenly comes to believe that I am nicer than I really am? Does that make me a bigger jerk than the guy who’s just self-evidently a jerk on the surface?

Posted inBooks

Vivid Words of a Cross-cultural Life

Poetry can be intimidating and difficult to “get.” It can evoke the same feelings many of us have toward contemporary art — we don’t always understand it, and it can make us feel shut out, like outsiders to an in-joke. Poetry as one of human nature’s more obtuse endeavors, can have the same effect. Ayala Sella’s first published book of poems, entitled Soliloquies of a Crosswalker (2011), published by Wasteland Press, works to contradict the notion that you must have a deep interest, appreciation, and knowledge of poetry before reading it.

Posted inArt

A Painter Revists the Images of 9/11 at 7 World Trade Center

Let the avalanche of September 11 exhibitions begin. As the tenth anniversary of the attack approaches, the art world gears up to remember and reflect with some of the bigger (and most intriguing) shows slated to run at blockbuster institutions like the Met, MoMA PS1 and the New Museum, as well as the opening of the Memorial Museum itself at the World Trade Center site on September 12. This Wednesday, I attended a small and intimate show at 7 World Trade Center that was a bit of quiet before the storm