On 38 Days of Slow Reading: A Discussion of John Ashbery’s “Flow Chart” (2/15/22)

This is somewhat old news, but last year, The Flow Chart Foundation — the organization devoted to exploring “poetry and the interrelationships of various art forms as guided by the legacy of American poet John Ashbery” — hosted a 38-day Twitter “slow reading” of Ashbery’s book-length poem Flow Chart, in which they invited participants and onlookers to take part in (or just watch and listen) a group discussion of the experience, which was led by poet and editor Emily Skillings.

To mark the conclusion of the “slow reading” project, the Flow Chart Foundation hosted an online event (which you can see in full above) on February 15, 2022, which brought together Skillings, poet and translator Marcella Durand, and myself to discuss the poem and our experience of reading it and to share questions, revelations, and conundrums, with input from those attending. Moderated by Flow Chart’s Executive Director, Jeffrey Lependorf.


Book Announcement: “The Cambridge Introduction to American Poetry Since 1945”

I’m pleased to announce that my third book, The Cambridge Introduction to American Poetry Since 1945, was recently published by Cambridge University Press. The book is part of Cambridge’s “Introduction to Literature Series,” and is designed to be a wide-ranging and accessible introduction to the poetry of this period. It can be purchased through Amazon or Cambridge University Press.

Here is a description of the book:

Contemporary American poetry can often seem intimidating and daunting in its variety and complexity. This engaging and accessible book provides the first comprehensive introduction to the rich body of American poetry that has flourished since 1945 and offers a useful map to its current landscape. By exploring the major poets, movements, and landmark poems at the heart of this era, this book presents a compelling new version of the history of American poetry that takes into account its variety and breadth, its recent evolution in the new millennium, its ever-increasing diversity, and its ongoing engagement with politics and culture. Combining illuminating close readings of a wide range of representative poems with detailed discussion of historical, political, and aesthetic contexts, this book examines how poets have tirelessly invented new forms and styles to respond to the complex realities of American life and culture.

The Cambridge Introduction to American Poetry Since 1945

  • Provides comprehensive coverage of a broad range of movements, trends, and individual poets, with special attention to the increasingly diverse nature of American poetry; explores a variety of traditions, aesthetic predispositions, poetic communities, and subject positions
  • Combines a thorough account of literary history and overview of historical and political contexts with extensive discussion of individual poet’s careers and detailed close readings of representative poems
  • Introduces readers to quite challenging, experimental, and difficult poetry in a way that is lively, engaging, and accessible

Here is the Table of Contents for the book:

Introduction. American poetry since 1945

Part I. American Poetry from 1945 to 1970:
1. The raw and the cooked: the new criticism versus the new American poetry
2. The Black Mountain poets
3. The beats and the San Francisco renaissance
4. The New York school of poetry
5. The middle generation, Elizabeth Bishop, and confessional poetry
6. Deep image poetry
7. African American poetry from 1945 to 1970

Part II. American Poetry from 1970 to 2000:
8. A new ‘mainstream’ period style in poetry of the 1970s and 1980s
9. Language poetry
10. Feminism and women’s poetry from 1970 to 2000
11. Diversity, identity, and poetry from 1970 to 2000

Part III. Into the New Millennium: American Poetry from 2000 to the Present:
12. New directions in American poetry from 2000 to the present

I hope you’ll check it out at Amazon or Cambridge University Press!

On Wallace Stevens and the New York School of Poets


I contributed an essay to an exciting new collection of essays on Wallace Stevens entitled The New Wallace Stevens Studies, edited by Bart Eeckhout and Gül Bilge Han, which was recently published by Cambridge University.

My piece argues that Stevens’s influence on poets of the New York School (like Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, James Schuyler, Ted Berrigan) — and the avant-garde more broadly — has been overlooked, to the detriment of both.  

For more on my piece, see this post at Locus Solus.

Recent book reviews

Here are links to some recent book reviews I’ve written:

— For On the Seawall, I reviewed The Selected Letters of John Berryman.

— For American Literature, I reviewed two recent scholarly books on twentieth- and twenty-first century American fiction, Postmodernism in Pieces: Materializing the Social in U.S. Fiction by Matthew Mullins and Lyrical Strategies: The Poetics of the Twentieth-Century American Novel by Katie Owens-Murphy.

Postmodernism in Pieces: Materializing the Social in U.S. Fiction by  Matthew Mullins - Hardcover - 2016 - from BookVistas (SKU: BD1-9780190459505)
Lyrical Strategies: The Poetics of the Twentieth-Century American Novel:  Owens-Murphy, Katie: 9780810136540: Amazon.com: Books

— For On the Seawall, I reviewed Bill Berkson’s posthumous memoir, Since When: A Memoir in Pieces.

Tribute to Stanley Cavell at ASAP/J

Image result for stanley cavell

With Abram Foley, I recently co-edited a cluster of brief tribute essays about Stanley Cavell, the great philosopher and scholar of literature and film, who passed away in June at the age of 91, for the journal ASAP/J.  As our introduction to the feature put it:

Following Stanley Cavell’s death last month at the age of 91, we invited some of his students, friends, and admirers to write about his life and work. We were particularly interested in soliciting personal essays that acknowledged how Cavell’s thinking or character as a scholar and teacher had influenced the contributor’s own thinking or teaching, or helped to point them in new directions in their work. We ultimately received eight such pieces, with essays by Charles Bernstein, R.M. Berry, Beci Carver, J.D. Connor, Andrew Epstein, Walt Hunter, Imani Perry, and Johanna Winant.

You can find all the essays gathered here.

My own contribution, “The Philosopher as the Hobo of Thought,” discusses Cavell’s profound influence on my own writing.

From my essay:

I initially encountered this remarkable hobo of thought in graduate school, nearly twenty-five years ago, when I was first blown away by the strangeness and beauty of his writing. What other philosopher or theorist is so eloquent, so moving, so curiously human when discussing the problems of philosophy and literature and film? Like many others, I’ve always been drawn to Cavell in part for his genius as a writer, a stylist, a creator of striking, distinctive, indelible sentences. Certain phrases and passages, including some I’ve quoted above, have simply become totemic for me, recurring at odd moments and never far from my thoughts. They seemed to speak to something deep-seated in me that I hadn’t quite articulated or fully understood. His writing also seemed to have a weird knack for providing powerful language, images, and metaphors for concepts and ideas that happened to be at the center of my own work. Looking back, I can now see Cavell became something of a guiding spirit hovering over both of my books, echoing and deepening their themes.

You can read the rest here.

Review of “Flarf: An Anthology of Flarf” in the Los Angeles Review of Books

My review of Flarf: An Anthology of Flarf recently appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

From the review:

Faced with the daily calamity of the Bush years, Flarf testified that verbal play, and the creative détournement of our culture’s own language, could be a liberating act of resistance. Its antics were a valuable method of pushing back against what Wallace Stevens called, in another dark time, the almost unbearable “pressure of reality.” Perhaps right now we desperately need art forms that can seize on the language of our time, expose its absurdity, its deceit, and its sinister designs on us, and repurpose it for different ends. But in 2018, the online culture of misogyny, racism, stupidity, and hatred that Flarf exposed doesn’t need much further unearthing: it seems to be everywhere. As we gasp for air and sanity in the depths of Trumpworld, Flarf seems prescient but also somewhat redundant. To paraphrase Man Ray’s famous remark about why Dada could not survive in New York: Flarf cannot live in America. All America is Flarf, and will not tolerate a rival.

You can read the rest here.