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(& forever?): The Zibaldone of Giacomo Leopardi. As giant as this “hodgepodge” is (more than 4500 pages of original manuscript written from 1819 to 1832), this book is what Mallarmé would have called an “album” rather than a “total book.” It’s not a daybook exactly, but its essayistic prose reasoning is discontinuous, notes, tryouts, scholia. It leaps and diverges and turns back, from refining speculations of philology and literary history to little disquisitions on variety or tortoises or resistance or polytheism or unhappiness. Everyone seems to be in here, in methodology: Sir Thomas Browne’s correctives of common errors; Montaigne’s self as study; and even, anticipated, Adorno’s minima moralia and Barthes’s semioclasm. The thirteen-chapter (!) introduction and 155 pages of notes are appropriate apparatus for this whole world of thinking.

 

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Maggie prefers the term life writing, if there has to be a domain for this somatic, experiential long-form essaying. The book is at once an account of thought and an account of living—step-stoning through a crowd of conventional wisdoms and revolutionary thinkers (hard to distinguish as it turns out), individuating, even shattering (per Leo Bersani) at the thresholds of each passage into: queer, partner, stepparent, and mother. Who makes it through with her? Donald Winnicott, Susan Fraiman, Judith Butler, yep, they’re aboard the Argo. Slavoj Zizek and Lee Edelman, not so much. They can’t seem to hang with “sodomitical maternity.”

 

Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil. I like this book among a handful of poetry books right now that take their definition as paratext, incidental text to (a score for, notes toward) a performance or an act, an activism. The act in this case is a gesture of self-sacrifice, thirty-one years after the fact, the act of a “black brown girl” lying on the ground in the early minutes of a fatal 1979 race riot on the outskirts of London. The performance is posited, annotated, documented, visited and revisited, and the activism—of this book—is open. “I want a literature that is not made from literature,” she writes, and writes it.

 

Red Epic by Joshua Clover. How about a propaedeutics for the Revolution? That’s not a line in this book, but it could be. Glib, cynical, and teachy never sounded so good—because it’s never been so swift, salient, and dicey. Capital and the Polis and the Century are addressed head-on—I mean, as addressees of poems. Nobody dares answer back. “We make our way through a thicket of signs. / We make our way through buildings and stanzas and eras inside of which it feels a certain way. / What is that feeling and can we name the metro system after it?” The turnstile clicks throughout, building its rhythm, but Clover makes it count. His best book. I’m rereading it already.

 

Laodicea by Eric Ekstrand. An inventive, graceful, bodied first book, by a poet with a knack like Philip Whalen or—closer to home—Jonathan Williams for building poems out of at-hand detail and quick-take ventriloquy of ambient history and evangelism. And maybe, too, Muriel Rukeyser, her penchant for biographing in documentary poetry. The poet lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and among its complacencies and “unconsolidated orderliness,” so does his springy, erotic, reparative sentence-work, remarkable in places.

 

* also. I host a radio show that has a directive to select among the newest poetry from the new shelves, and though I’ve only been at work on it a couple of months, I am excited to include a few poets I couldn’t name above, whose new books I know from that work are triumphs: Alissa Quart, Donna Stonecipher, Tyler Brewington, Maggie Zurawski, and the late Claudia Emerson.

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Published Jun 24, 2015 - Comments Off on What I’m Reading Now… by Brian Blanchfield

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