LM Rivera Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3618.I847A73 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Attachments to proper names, traditions, and entrenched thought formations are a perennial problem and, as LM Rivera shows, an addiction. Against Heidegger is a collection of poetic meditations on that pervasive, and possibly eternal, compulsion. Rivera builds his idiosyncratically lyric argumentation against simplistic, naive, sentimental, and played-out narratives, opting instead for improvised, collaged, bursting-at-the-seams, experimental formations through which he thinks a concept through to its (im)possible end. On this philosophical-poetic journey, Rivera positions the grand figure of Martin Heidegger as a whipping boy who receives the punishment for the sins of blind tradition. Through this collection, Rivera attempts to sever many troubling yet lasting customs—be they overt, hidden, canonical, esoteric, forbidden, or blatantly authoritarian.
Helen of Troy and Aphrodite: two classical paragons of beauty and love. These two figures have served as the inspiration for innumerable works of art in the Western cannon. In the twenty-first century, however, what do their stories provide but a reminder of the predictable roles which sexism has assigned women throughout history and literature?
In this fresh new take on the two women’s stories, Jennifer Pullen takes us away from the familiar and deeper into their experiences. Rewriting Homer, Pullen revitalizes these two figures for the contemporary era. In A Bead of Amber on Her Tongue, Aphrodite maintains autonomy through her experience of her own body, even when forced into marriage. Helen of Troy, meanwhile, harbors a love for her maid, Esme, that no conquering hero can vanquish. Revisiting these classic stories with an inventive twist, Pullen shows that, with a little imagination, the classics may yet bear new insights.
Anthony Cody Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3603.O29548B67 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo marked an end to the Mexican—American War, but it sparked a series of lynchings of Mexicans and subsequent erasures, and long-lasting traumas. This pattern of state-sanctioned violence committed towards communities of color continues to the present day. Borderland Apocrypha centers around the collective histories of these terrors, excavating the traumas born of turbulence at borderlands. In this debut collection, Anthony Cody responds to the destabilized, hostile landscapes and silenced histories of borderlands. His experimental poetic reinvents itself and shapeshifts in both form and space across the margin, the page, and the book in forms of resistance, signaling a reclamation and a re-occupation of what has been omitted. The poems ask the reader to engage in searching through the nested and cascading series of poems centered around familial and communal histories, structural racism, and natural ecosystems of borderlands. Relentless in its explorations, this collection shows how the past continues to inform actions, policies, and perceptions in North and Central America.
Rather than a proposal for re-imagining the US/Mexico border, Cody’s collection is an avant-garde examination of how borderlands have remained occupied spaces, and of the necessity of liberation to usher the earth and its people toward healing. Part auto-historia, part docu-poetic, part visual monument, part myth-making, Borderland Apocrypha unearths history in order to work toward survival, reckoning, and the building of a future that both acknowledges and moves on from tragedies of the past.
Borderland Apocrypha won Omnidawn's 2018 1st/2nd Book Prize.
Myung Mi Kim Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3561.I414A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In Civil Bound, Myung Mi Kim turns a keen ear to language as the mechanism by which society operates. The poems engage multiple methods to make sense of this pervasive tool, its powers, nuances, and influences over the structure of our civilizations. Through investigations of ecology, capitalism, military powers, colonialism, and supremacy, the book uncovers patterns in the ways that language is active in perpetuating inequality and binding its subjects to the will of those in positions of authority. In questioning systems of oppression, the poems also offer the hope of forging new paths through the connecting power of language. Examining our participation in social contracts, communal goals, and human desires, Kim’s poems encourage us to salvage language as a means of connection that binds us in respect and commitment to our fellow human beings.
from unincorporated territory [hacha] is the first book of native Chamorro poet Craig Santos Perez’s ongoing series about his homeland, the Western Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). Perez weaves avant-garde, eco-poetic, indigenous, documentary, multilingual, and abstract expressionist modes to tell the complex story of Guam’s people, culture, history, politics, and ecologies. Since its original publication in 2008, [hacha] has received positive reviews, and it has been taught in universities throughout Asia, the Pacific, the United States, Canada, and Europe. This new and revised edition aims to bring the book to a new generation of readers.
Diana Khoi Nguyen Omnidawn, 2018 Library of Congress PS3614.G85A6 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Ghost Of is a mourning song, not an exorcism or un-haunting of that which haunts, but attuned attention, unidirectional reaching across time, space, and distance to reach loved ones, ancestors, and strangers. By working with, in, and around the photographs that her brother left behind (from which he cut himself out before his death), Nguyen wrestles with what remains: memory, physical voids, and her family captured around an empty space.
Craig Santos Perez Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3619.A598H33 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
With Habitat Threshold, Craig Santos Perez has crafted a timely collection of eco-poetry that explores his ancestry as a native Pacific Islander, the ecological plight of his homeland, and his fears for the future. The book begins with the birth of the author’s daughter, capturing her growth and childlike awe at the wonders of nature. As it progresses, Perez confronts the impacts of environmental injustice, the ravages of global capitalism, toxic waste, animal extinction, water rights, human violence, mass migration, and climate change. Throughout, he mourns lost habitats and species, and confronts his fears for the future world his daughter will inherit. Amid meditations on calamity, this work does not stop at the threshold of elegy. Instead, the poet envisions a sustainable future in which our ethics are shaped by the indigenous belief that the earth is sacred and all beings are interconnected—a future in which we cultivate love and “carry each other towards the horizon of care.”
Through experimental forms, free verse, prose, haiku, sonnets, satire, and a method he calls “recycling,” Perez has created a diverse collection filled with passion. Habitat Threshold invites us to reflect on the damage done to our world and to look forward, with urgency and imagination, to the possibility of a better future.
Harpo Before the Opus
Logan Fry Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3606.R925H38 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
The poems begin where language fails, where speech becomes disembodied, and syntax skids to a stop that dissolves into gesture. Where its form reaches an end, formlessness offers a space ripe with possibility. Here we find Harpo, reaching into the frustrated endpoint of language to find a method for its resurrection. Fry sees that language becomes a tool for alienation and uses the poems in Harpo Before the Opus to excavate paths back to tenderness. These are poems from the edge, pulling language out from its failure and into a fervent interrogation of its possibilities. What was once a tool of capitalistic alienation now serves as material for building connections.
In spiraling explorations of rhetoric, these poems allow language to break from its prescribed structures, and instead, it becomes a gestural embrace of feeling and being. Fry utilizes a Marxist lens to scrutinize and reinvent the use of language. In Fry’s hands, language is rendered a visceral and sensual material, forming poems that are both deeply felt philosophical inquiries and wildly playful exercises of wit.
In henceforce, Kamden Ishmael Hilliard’s poems take us on unimaginable voyages within and beyond the contours of our quotidian experience. This is not simply geographic travel, however: though Hilliard’s poems explore air travel, transcontinental locations, and even intergalactic scenes, their travel poetic asks us to move through and beyond deeply entrenched social boundaries. The movement depicted and encouraged here brings the reader into contact with figures that destabilize our notions of race, gender, and nation. Hilliard’s language, too, transgresses boundaries. For any reader who loves strange encounters with the familiar and the thrill of disorientation, these poems will prove challenging in a deeply exhilarating way, asking the reader to question the limits of their gaze, their language, their sense of place, and ultimately to reaffirm their personhood.
Jennifer S. Cheng Omnidawn, 2016 Library of Congress PS3603.H4598A6 2016 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
House A investigates the tones and textures of immigrant home-building by asking: How is the body inscribed with a cosmology of home, and vice versa? With evocative and intellectual precision, House A weaves personal, discursive, and lyrical textures to invoke the immersive-obscured experience of an immigrant home’s entanglement while mapping a new poetics of American Home, steeped in longing and rooted by displacement.
From the small towns strung along the coast of the Big Island of Hawai‘i to the land-locked landscapes of Paraguay to the volcanic surface of Venus, this collection of poetry is a field guide to flora, fauna, and mineralia encountered, real, and imagined. Jennifer Hasegawa scans across physical and mental planes to reveal their inhabitants. Packed tightly into exploratory rocket segments, these poems ignite our gravest flaws to send our grandest potentials into orbit.
Hasegawa’s poems not only rearrange our ways of seeing the world, but they also reset the language we use in it. Banzai, with a literal translation of “10,000 years,” was used by the Japanese as a rallying cry in imperialistic and militaristic contexts. Today, the understanding of this word has shifted to a comparatively neutral translation of the enthusiastic expression “Hurrah!” in both in Japan and beyond. In La Chica’s Field Guide to Banzai Living, Hasegawa aims to reclaim banzai, recasting the language of war and unwavering loyalty and forming it into one that stands against aggression and racism and embraces tolerance and self-acceptance. Here banzai becomes a rallying cry not of war but of grand potential. La Chica’s Field Guide to Banzai Living chronicles a celebratory life and poetry filled with wonder.
Love, Like Pronouns
Rosmarie Waldrop Omnidawn, 2003 Library of Congress PS3573.A4234L68 2003 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
With the title of her latest collection, Love, Like Pronouns, Waldrop demonstrates with deft humor the relational aspects of any discourse. And, she implicitly suggests the similar slipperiness in human emotion and in human speech, as both the love object and the pronoun's referent easily shift with, even because of any attempt to articulate it. The title also subtly resonates with Waldrop's admiration for other writers, as well as demonstrates her awareness that each act of writing occurs in relation to—and within—the environment of other writings, past and present. In this collection, poem cycles dedicated to other writers echo with subtle synchronisms of that writer's forms, tones, textures. Yet from out of this synchronism, Waldrop evolves her own unique mediums of address. Each poem travels its own distinct and unrepeatable conduit between experience and language. Waldrop is an accomplished and applauded writer of poetry, fiction, essays and translation.
Myung Mi Kim Omnidawn, 2009 Library of Congress PS3561.I414P46 2009 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In Penury, Myung Mi Kim probes sanctioned norms of cognition by breaking communication into its most discrete components. With these irruptions and suspensions, she writes into extremes of forced loss, violence, and impoverishment. Exposing latent relations in sound and sense, Kim proposes how new ethical awareness can be encountered where the word and its meaning/s are formed. Here, language is not offered as transparent communication of ideas, but as testament to and disruption of oppressive dominant concepts and cultural practices. "Penury" means poverty, but in this text's radical relation to lack, we hear the most elemental and active forms of change.
Raft of Flame
Desirée Alvarez Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3601.L877R34 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
A painter and poet, Desirée Alvarez engages with the powerful forces of lyric and rhythm to create a collection that moves across time and place. Inspired by Lorca’s passionate cante jondo, or “deep song,” and her own family history with Andalusian flamenco, Alvarez weaves together a time-travelling epic that searches through myth, culture, and nature for the roots of identity. Navigating both her Latina and European heritage through works by artists of the ancient Americas and Spain, Alvarez maps intersections between personal and political history. Searching narratives both fictitious and real, Raft of Flame includes imagined conversations between a conquistador and an Olmec sculpture, between Frida Kahlo and Velazquez, and between The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy and Glinda the Good Witch.
In Raft of Flame, Alvarez constructs and fleshes out a fantastic narrative of personal and cultural history, offering glimpses into the art, history, and land that comprise her story. Her narrative explores how both nature and human populations continue to be trapped in the violence of colonialism. Vivid lyrics interrogate the complexities of mixed race, digging the dualities, upheavals, and casts of characters that underly Alvarez’s identity.
Raft of Flame won Omnidawn's 2018 Lake Merritt Prize.
Running to Stand Still
Kimberly Reyes Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3618.E9386A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Histories, stories, lyrics, aspirations, dreams, pressures, and images are spun into a musical tale through a site of convergence: the Black female body. Swarmed by external gazes and narratives, the inhabitant of this body uses her power to turn down this cacophony of noise and compose a symphonic space for herself. By breaching boundaries of racism, sexism, sizeism, colorism, and colonialism, these poems investigate the memories and realities of existing as Black in America. Building from poetic, journalistic, and musical histories, poet and essayist Kimberly Reyes constructs a complex and fantastic narrative in which she negotiates a path to claim her own power.
These poems teem with life, a life rich with many selves and many histories that populate in the voice of Reyes’s poetic narrator. They sway between negotiations of hypervisibility and erasure, the inevitable and the chosen, and the perceived and the constructed. Reyes’s poems offer sharp observations and lyrical movement to guide us in a ballad of reconciliation and becoming.
David Koehn Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3611.O3626S29 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Scatterplot navigates a vast landscape of imagination through variations on being lost and found. David Koehn’s investigative journeys allow space for the failures of consciousness and gaps in the knowable as he traverses a sensory terrain through the shadow of natural history and the glow of the family room TV. In this wilderness is a father and son walking the sloughs of the California delta, searching through the mayhem of a world dismissive of, but also requiring, love.
Koehn diagrams connections from media, art, film, music, nature, history, and his own family into a web of coordinates that form constellations of beauty and tragedy. He moves from the music of the Bad Brains, to the grotesque lifecycle of the Tongue-Eating Louse, to the deconstruction of Mutant Mania toys, and on through the poems of David Antin and the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, building a fantastical world from the wild realities of the real one. In a universe so full of imperfection one can’t help but both laugh and cry, the poet embraces the present while taking responsibility for his own insufficiencies. Amounting to a mix of experiments—erasures, surreal narratives, collage, walking poems, and more—the delta between right now and forever feels both inescapably present and delightfully confused. Immense vulnerability, infinitely odd observations, and uninhibited daring populate the psychological terrain in the poems of Scatterplot as Koehn invites us to join his spiraling poetic exploration.
Martha Ronk Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3568.O574A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Within the visual arts of painting and photography, Martha Ronk finds an undeniable presence lurking: silence. This character slips into pauses, hides between images, and expertly evades the grasp of language. Ronk shows us that what is hidden just off screen in these images might just be the force that gives them power. The poems in Silences seek possibilities of how to form language from a phenomenon that so earnestly resists it. Rather than coax silence out of hiding, Ronk’s poems respond to its mysterious presence through questions and conjecture.
These poems endeavor to give a much-deserved voice to silence, addressing the power of what is not seen. While silence remains perpetually out of reach, Ronk invites us to follow the language that creeps up to its edges. The poems in this collection form an inquiry that moves through the presence of silence and reveals insights into the character of the visual art in which it lives.
Brittany Tomaselli Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3620.O4756A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
What happens when the faith and community we once held close sours into an experience of tragedy? In Since Sunday, we find a poet who is rebuilding a sense of faith after fleeing religious abuse. Doubt, shame, uncertainty, and the pains of loss create the ground from which these poems grow. After severance from her religion, established values, and sense of direction, Tomaselli embarks on recovery as an active and intentional pursuit. The poems reveal a resilience that must be lived as a daily effort to cope with trauma and to root oneself in the present.
Through wit, vulnerability, and rich lyrical language, Tomaselli invites us to walk with her through loss and on to a persistent process of discovery. The poems chronicle a cultivation of awe, unearthing a fresh faith rooted in the present realness of everyday experiences. Stripped of the orthodoxy that both grew and crushed her, she reconstructs a new core of trust for herself. Here we learn with the poet to seek celebration in daily life and to foster a sense of beauty from the mundane.
Lyn Hejinian Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3558.E4735A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
The three works of poetry that constitute Tribunal were written in the current context of seemingly ubiquitous warfare and the specter of unabashed neo-fascism, ethno-nationalism, and—especially in the United States—reassertions of white supremacy. As renowned poet Lyn Hejinian recounts, the inspiration for Tribunal gradually took shape over the course of almost a decade in the collaborative work she has done to fight neoliberal policies that dismantle the public sphere through actions that include privatizing the commons, busting unions, and imposing a corporate, profiteering model on a range of institutions including public higher education. Hejinian explores a broad range of responses to our deeply troubling historical period in Tribunal’s three collections. These poems express an emotional scope that includes fury, sadness, and even, at times, something very close to pity for our humanity, perpetually unable to avoid its own penchant for cruelty. Hejinian is the rare poet who can bring to the page a rich, complex rendering of how mutually exclusive emotions can exist simultaneously. We lose safety and surety, but we gain a wider lens on contemporary crises from her sometimes lacerating, sometimes intensely beautiful lyric verse. It’s only in such an artistic and emotional landscape that readers, thinkers, artists, workers, and all comrades against injustice can manage to keep inventing, imagining, and hoping. Throughout these crises, the poet returns to language as a meaningful space in which to grapple with a seemingly endless cycle of conflict. While the works can be read as expressions of protest or dissent, they powerfully convey an argument for artmaking itself—and a turn to its affirmation of life.
Acting as poetic records of light, the poems in Variations on Dawn and Dusk follow the sun as it warms, cools, colors, and shifts the space of Robert Irwin’s untitled (dawn to dusk) in the desert of Marfa, TX. Built on the footprint of the town’s old hospital, Irwin’s permanent installation is a remarkable structure with walls, windows, and screens that both capture and are taken over by the sun’s changing light. Through this deeply engaged ekphrasis, Dan Beachy-Quick uses language to participate in the overpowering elegance of Irwin’s structure. The poet’s fervent observations lead us in cycles of meditation, moving with the light that slides through the surfaces of the installation. Here, the very foundation of our vision—light—forms the vocabulary from which these poems are built.
Building from Irwin’s use of rhythm and structure, the poems in this collection are constructed with an architectural framework. Rhythmic procedures inversely link the first and last words of the first and last lines of each poem and tie the number of lines to the number of syllables in the first line. These structures form a pattern, a thoughtful consistency through which we are invited to move and meditate with each variation of light.
mai c. doan Omnidawn, 2019 Library of Congress PS3604.O175A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Grappling with the shock of her grandmother’s suicide, mai c. doan undertook a writing project that might give voice to her loss as well as to grapple with memory, and the challenge of articulation and of documentation, in all of their contradictions and (im)possibilities. In the poems that comprise water/tongue, doan conjures visceral and intuitive elements of experience to articulate the gendered and intergenerational effects of violence, colonialism, and American empire. Breaking the silence surrounding these experiences, doan conjures a host of voices dispersed across time and space to better understand the pain that haunted her family—made tragically manifest in her grandmother’s death. Looking not only to elements of Vietnamese history and culture, but to the experience of migration and racism in the United States, this book charts a path for both understanding and resistance. Indeed, doan does not merely wish to unearth the past, but also to change the future. If we want to do so, she shows, we must commune with the voices of sufferers both past and present. doan demonstrates how even the form of a work of poetry can act as a subversion of what a reader expects from the motion of the act of reading a line of type or a page of text. doan disarms and unsettles the ways a reader is led to levels of comprehension, and thus disrupts what “comprehension” might mean, as the reader follows the flow of a work, providing an opportunity to sense, and to confront hierarchies that structure ordinary reading and writing. doan brings a reader to conscious appraisal of the hierarchies that affect us, and how these hierarchies can constrain our insights and our mobility. water/tongue is a critical read for anyone interested in the long effects of gendered and cultural violence, and the power of speech to forge new and empowering directions.