As soon as I had sent off my list of “10 books of 2007” to Steve Evans for his yearly roundup
, I realized that there were many more books I would have loved to mention. So here is another baker’s dozen that made my day or night during 2007, in no particular order:
1. Jaime Saenz | The Night | translated and introduced by Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson | Princeton University Press 2007.
In fact, I liked it as much for the translators’ introduction & the description of their travels and travails in search for Saenz, than for the poems themselves.
2. Tom Mandel | To the Cognoscenti | atelos 2007.
Don’t know what to “say” about this book, just that the reading of it is a quiet, enriching, satisfying, sensuously intellectual & intellectually sensuous pleasure. I first read through it from beginning to end, then put it away. But I have been picking it up again and again, opening it randomly & reading a few pages. The same pleasure as at first reading returns, but now the plot thickens, new elements jump out – tickle the sense or the intellect, and then I can’t make that separation anymore, & just relish it all.
3. César Vallejo | The Complete Poetry of… | Edited by Clayton Eshleman | University of California Press.
Finally, after a near life time spent working on Vallejo, here is Eshleman’s summa. The best translation of Vallejo, no contest.
4. Joe Amato | Industrial Poetics |Iowa / Contemporary North American Poetry Series, 2007.
Proletarians of the world, drop the sickle, pick up the keyboard & listen to Joe!
5. Nathaniel Tarn | The Embattled Lyric: Essays and conversations in Poetics and Anthropology | Stanford University Press, 2007.
A definite collection of essays braiding & complexifying both of Tarn’s fields of reflection and investigation.
6. Elke de Rijcke | Troubles. 120 Précisions. Expériences | Tarabuste Editeur, 2005.
The most interesting Belgian poet at work these days.
7. Juliana Spahr | The Transformation | Atelos, 2007.
A lovely prose narrative of a multi-years stay in Hawai by one of our best poets & her companions. A whiff of Steinian writing writing, but where Stein’s repetitions can so often move towards a near-autistic infolding spiral, Spahr’s writing uses repetition to create spirals that outfold, to grapple with and engage the world.
8. Alain Badiou | The Century | Polity Press, 2007.
Core to Badiou’s attempt to understand the 20th C are the handful of poems that lie at the center of his philosophical-political analysis here, ranging from Mandelstam to Breton via Celan and Perse. Breathtaking. I will use it in my spring 2008 graduate writing seminar.
9. Mark Scroggins | The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky | Shoemaker/Hoard, 2007.
Still in the process of reading it, and so far completely delighted. A must for anyone interested in the most secret of the great American poets of the past century.
10. Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya | Le Club Gabriel |Actes Sud, 2001.
I met Joydeep as he started teaching at Albany this past semester, and he offered me this French translation of his first novel, as the original English version is out of print. A powerful, dark meditation on Eastern Europe before and after the collapse of Communism.
11. Kamau Brathwaite | DS (2): dreamstories | New Directions 2007
An intricate working of oral narratives, Caribbean lore, dream stories, autobiographical tales, reflections on nation-language poetry by the great Barbadian poet. I used the book in my comparative literature class this past semester and it had a major impact on those students who dared venture into it (rather than staying with the more accessible novels we were also reading).
12. & 13. Juan Goytisolo | Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife | Saracen Chronicles: A Selection of Literary Essays | etc.
This past summer, traveling through Portugal and Spain to the Pyrenees, I spent most of my reading time focusing on Juan Goytisolo’s work, especially the memoirs. He is, as far as I am concerned, the major Iberian writer of his generation. Also read the French translation of his book entitled Barzakh (in that translation) – a title I had picked a few years ago for a book of poems & had to give up after discovering Goytisolo’s book.
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