Every book Camille Roy has ever written is a feat of imagination. The wayward young people whose lives her stories bear witness to apprehend atmospheres of cruelty and injustice in language you can feel before you understand. There’s a toughness to the writing, it beckons without innocence like a sly smile or conspiratorial wink. The seams of narrative are left exposed so that as a reader consuming someone else's past you can't avoid asking who am I using and what am I trying to gain.
Wite Out is a hybrid-form poememoir that documents the author’s experiences as a parent and publishing industry worker navigating historical race and class tensions in Oakland, CA. The text is pieced together from decades of notebooks: its insights emerge out of a dense collage of jotted down memories and reading excerpts. Norton treats the people in her life with deep respect but also exerts this fierce intellect and deadpan wit. I wanted to underline something every other page. If you enjoy this book I also highly recommend its prequel The Public Gardens: Poems and History.
This book is impossible to comprehend but it's the sort of text that sticks with you. Rattray's work is like a contact high because in it you feel the urgency of a mind pushing at the boundaries of what language can do.
Former Chicagoan Amina Cain's mysterious, carefully honed stories pitch you into a strange state of suspension. Like Monica Vitti's character in Red Desert, the creatures who populate Cain's world never seem sure of their position vis a vis geography: where does landscape end and selfhood begin?
A kind of shadow oral history, this book preserves the talkiness and loose, associative quality of an interview. Goldman's feminism is refreshingly intersectional: women of color like Poly Styrene, Palmolive, Grace Jones, and Neneh Cherry are placed at the center of the discussion, and the complexities of their subject positions are engaged head on.
Conrad's writing is always confrontational, which can be a great relief in a time when even poets don veneers of staid professionalism. Insistently queer, working class, witchy, and anti-war, Conrad speaks their truth and doesn't care whether you're ready for what they have to say.
Just after Trump got elected, Levin toured across the country with poet Eric Sneathen reading the same essay condemning Reaganism night after night. Their latest book emerged out of a set of questions the poet JT Jennifer Tamayo posed: "What does it mean to you to be a white? How does that show up or not in your work? What is justice?" Levin's self-critical response takes the form of fragmentary notes, giving voice to the complex interplay of learning and everyday life.
This 2012 book, galvanized by the Occupy movement, looks at the abstraction of life under finance capital and analyzes this in relation to the slippage between sign and referent that occurs in poetry. Unlike finance, which alienates people and subjects language itself to an increasingly mechanized role in society, poetry “reactivates the social body” and makes possible new forms of relationality outside of those prescribed by capital. Funny, weird and sweet, you could easily knock this out in a single sitting. See the 2018 sequel of sorts, Breathing, for a more freewheeling elaboration of the book’s ideas.
High-stakes writing that imagines an outside to empire while trapped inside its blinding glow. Attending to the connections between subjecthood and state terror, the text continually circles back on itself as if to put theories of fugitivity into practice via poetic form. (What the hell is form? is among the questions the collection ponders.) A riotous book that refuses available representational paradigms, never content to accept the conditions of appearance that colonizers take as the given reality.
A terrible artist residency in Spain becomes the basis for a hilarious, sometimes frightening examination of the possibilities of friendship within patriarchal society. The internet’s down, the stove’s broken, it’s always raining... As a web of bad situations and adversarial relationships builds around her, the speaker pushes narrative back into her surroundings, finding systems of power where others see specificity of place. Honest and demanding, like a good friend, this book will make you look at the world differently.
Watching the complete filmography of Bresson is one of the best things a person can do with their time on earth. This strange little book, the only text the influential filmmaker published during his lifetime, originally came out in French in 1975, two years before his deeply pessimistic penultimate film The Devil Probably. In a series of short, aphoristic statements, he succinctly outlines the philosophical ideas that inform his style and working methods. Famously preferring nonprofessional actors who deliver their lines impassively, many of his theories center on a rigorous disavowal of artifice. He seems to sincerely believe that people have essences or souls apart from their historical conditions, yet his films are also profoundly anti-capitalist and anti-fascist. The seemingly contradictory analytic lenses of his spirituality and politics can be hard to parse, and the text, like his films, leaves a lot open to interpretation. He does not expound upon Catholicism, capitalism, suicidality--key themes of his oeuvre. Instead, he uses words to effect something more akin to his signature close-ups of hands. At once mysterious and didactic.
This book rocks. For something that's so much about death it's surprisingly vital. Written in a lucid, hypnagogic mode where anything can turn up, beautiful or horrible, it's also about how poetry is not enough, how we depend on one another to transform the social world off the page. Marie doesn't pretend to know the answer to survival, let alone utopia, but they do take sides; for example they're not against promiscuity, or revenge. After reading I felt inspired to sing to my cat, then I went back to worrying again.
Conversations with leading women artists, composers and writers from Judy Chicago, Anohni and Lynne Tillman to Ellie Ga, Tauba Auerbach and Renee Green