My Own Private Book Fair

I didn’t hit the Manila International Book Fair this year, after nearly two decades of perfect attendance and profligate spending. I did feel a little bad, but only a little, because I did manage to amass several titles recently, including a hugely discounted online order that arrived over the weekend.

Two of those were “free”:

Ann Lauterbach’s Hum was a title my wife bought me, which joins my copies of works like On a Stair (another review), Or To Begin Again, and the essay collection The Night Sky: Notes on the Poetics of Experience. Lauterbach not only impresses me but has impressed on me, and if I had to name the poets most important to me, she would be one of those I would immediately cite (along with Jack Spicer).

The other “free” title was from my Dad. He doesn’t really get poetry, but he’s been on an online ordering binge for some time now, not just for himself but for his circle of friends (and their children). So when an extra copy of Poems for the Millennium III: The University of California Book of Romantic and Postromantic Poetry turned up, that went to me. I’m very pleased with it, because I do want to “reconfigure Romanticism” in the same way co-editor Jerome Rothenberg intended this anthology to do.

The rest of the titles–all seven of them–were part of an online order that only cost me US$ 37.38, an online order consisting of:

  1. The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction by Dean Young is a new title in Gray Wolf’s “The Art of…” series of books. I’m pretty sure this will inspire and/or reinforce my own poetic beliefs and convictions.
  2. After a Lost Original by David Shapiro is one of two hardcovers, and it’s hard not to get excited over blurbs calling Shapiro’s 1994 collection “a dark divertimento of his underlying themes of multiplicity and doubt.”
  3. Boss Cupid by Thom Gunn is the other hardcover, eventually the final collection of someone described in the blurb as “the quintessential San Francisco poet, who is also the quintessential craftsman and quintessentially a love poet, though not of quintessential love.”
  4. You are the Business by Caroline Dubois is a title I only encountered after I searched for the books of Cole Swensen who translated this collection of prose poems. It’s earning good reviews online (one and another), and I’m attracted for its use of movies in general and Blade Runner and Cat People, in particular.
  5. The Face: A Novella in Verse by David St. John is also about movies, though not always reviewed favorably (this one is somewhat mixed, though ultimately positive). Still, as a book-length narrative work of poetry, it’s a form I’ve wanted to explore in my own work. Samples are available here.
  6. Hard Evidence by Timothy Liu is again a collection thematically centered on desire, with an additional point of interest being his being of Chinese descent. Surprisingly, until I started reading Singaporean poetry, I was never really interested in seeking out work written by Chinese people like myself.
  7. Listening to Reading by Stephen Ratcliffe is a collection of essays (many of them available here) on contemporary experimental poetry, but its presentation of “two different kinds of writing about poetry–‘critical analysis’ and ‘performance'” certainly push the envelope of traditional criticism. Since the book “pay[s] particular attention to sound, shape, and the relation of sound/shape to meaning,” this will certainly be essential reading.

With this much to preoccupy me for the moment, I’m almost (but not quite) ashamed to say there are still (at least!) a couple of titles out there calling to me. There always are.

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Stutterbug

From “He Stuttered,” an essay by Gilles Deleuze citing Watt and collected in Essays Critical and Clinical:

This means that a great writer is always like a foreigner in the language in which he expresses himself, even if this is his native tongue. At the limit, he draws his strength from a mute and unknown minority that belongs only to him. He is a foreigner in his own language: he does not mix another language with his own language, he carves out a nonpreexistent foreign language within his own language. He makes the language itself scream, stutter, stammer, or murmur. (109-100)

My attention was drawn to these remarks in the course of reading Deleuze’s Wake: Tributes and Tributaries by Ronald Bogue. Although some of the essays in this book are said to “presuppose some familiarity with Deleuzian texts,” which I don’t really have (apart from “Literature and Life”), I had few problems reading and understanding “Deleuze’s Style” and “Deleuze, Foucault, and the Playful Fold of the Self.” Fascinating, and even if this is just a secondary source, I think I’m falling in love with Deleuze.