Wave Books

September 2013

The Sunday Poem: Joshua Beckman’s The Inside of an Apple

By |09.28.13|

 

The poems in Joshua Beckman’s new book, The Inside of an Apple (Wave Books, 2013), have all the immediacy of a “V” of geese passing overhead: for a brief moment, everything else falls away. While […]

June 2013

The Sunday Poem : Geoffrey Nutter

By |06.29.13|

 

 

The epigraph that opens Geoffrey Nutter’s new collection, The Rose of January, (Wave Books, 2013), is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Lettuce, apple, or melon, in season—so long as it is good….When their hour is past do not try to move the hand back on the dial & do them again but try that undone something which is in season now, celery, ice, or cucumbers.”

It’s the perfect beginning for “the undone something”captures the essence of Nutter’s poetry.

Nutter has a playful style, and his poems encourage readers to accept the creations of his imagination at face value, whether he is writing about “famous androids,” a clock tower, a “cubicle farm,” “Habitable Bridges,” or “The City of Magnificent Distances.” Like Italo Calvino meets Wallace Stevens meets William Gass with a dash of Kafka tossed in, Nutter’s writing has one foot planted firmly in reality and the other in the fantastical world of the poet’s imagination.

Nutter’s universe is both strange and familiar. Much like a Surrealist painter, he has a talent for throwing disparate items together, and the end result is both surprising and entirely original. One doesn’t expect a poem about Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s famous bout with Mustafa Hamsho to reference rainbow trout or a fleur-de-lys. Unexpected juxtapositions and non sequiturs characterize The Rose of January. Emerson’s “celery, ice, or cucumbers” could be a line from a Geoffrey Nutter poem.

Nutter has a wicked sense of humor too. In “King of the Dudes,” for example, he takes the idea of a “bad dad” and runs with it. “One Halloween we did dress my daughter up as a little man, complete with mustache and pipe,” Nutter told me via email, “and I thought, ‘Jesus, what kind of sick father would do such a thing…?'” Nutter uses the incident as inspiration and, in his own words, pushes the idea “to ridiculous extremes.”

“Some of the same parenting ambivalence comes out in ‘Invective Against Pugs,” says Nutter, “which is about pugs but also about parents and the way they (we) sort of exalt children”:
People with babies
are as strange as people
with pugs. Pugs, so small
and ugly, baby-like,
inexplicably decked out
or dolled up in their
little sweaters…
Geoffrey Nutter has a sharp eye, as well, and uses his sense of humor to throw everyday objects and incidents into high relief.

In “Tire Manufacturers” Nutter creates poetry by listing tire-makers from around the world:
Kenda Rubber, Southeast Asia.
Michelin. Mitsuboshi Belting. Mohawk Rubber.
Panther (England), Phillips Petroleum.
Phoenix Gummiwerke. Samson, Titan Tire.
This poem and “Remember the Telephone Book” (included below), show Nutter’s skill at making even the most banal objects intriguing.

“Geoffrey Nutter[s']… poetry seems to be powered equally by sunlight, virtue, wonder, and humility,” writes Nate Pritts of Rain Taxi. I couldn’t agree more.

Here are five poems from The Rose of January to kick off your Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Remember the Telephone Book
 
 
Remember the telephone book?
It once enjoyed pride of place
in many a kitchen, in many
a breakfast nook, warped
and yellow, its spine out of joint,
thicker than the Pentateuch and Septuagint,
thicker than the Ramayana, vaguely
scrofulous and antiquated even just
unwrapped from its cellophane sleeve.
You would reach for it, retrieve it
as one would pull something fully formed
from wet loam, heave it up on your knees
and it would flop open on your knees,
just a little obscenely. In its
white pages you could always find
the number for one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
or the street address for Clara Aufklärung;
in its yellow pages how to terminate
manhole rats or the Bridge and Tunnel
Authority, the blue pages for the offices
of governance in domed enclosures
or how to contact the sellers of tiles,
bricks, porcelain insulators,
and household crockery. And now?
Well then. It seems the telephone book has gone the way
of the top hat, the nosegay, the Automat, the rules
for auction bridge, the Hobson-Jobson
dictionary, or the plays of Richard
Brinsley Sheridan. Some printing concern,
likely in New Jersey, is printing still,
at night in a hidden maze of districts,
and some shadow courier service is bringing
them around to you; but who will have
the heavy, humble though self-serious
telephone book? You can see them stacked
like yellow cinder blocks in lobbies,
clumped in a master-block by shrink wrap
beneath the dark mail slots. A few days
later, someone just as discreetly
takes them away to an as yet undisclosed location.
 

 

 
[…]

I Never Knew How Blue Blueness Could Be: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets

By |06.12.13|

 

 

One of the joys of Gwarlingo is meeting art lovers from around the world. Sigrun Hodne and I found each other early in Gwarlingo’s short history, and though she lives in Norway, and I in New Hampshire, I’m constantly amazed by how similar our passions are when it comes to books and art. (If you aren’t familiar with her excellent arts blog Sub Rosa, I encourage you to subscribe.)

Sigrun has studied architecture in Oxford, art history and film in Stavanger, Norway, and literature in Bergen, Norway. (She wrote her Master’s thesis on “Self and Subjectivity in Samuel Beckett’s trilogy; Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable”). She has taught aesthetics in art schools and universities and has done research in language and psychosis. She currently works as an art and literature critic and is attempting to make a living as a writer (no small feat!).

There has been a strange serendipity with Sigrun across the miles. She will write about a particular artist, book, or subject at the same time I’m also investigating that specific topic.

So it was with Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets (Wave Books, 2009). I was late to the party with this one, but I quickly discovered why this slender volume is considered a literary masterpiece in certain circles (and a cult classic in others). Nelson’s meditation on the color blue, lost love, and depression is a brilliant, effective experiment that defies categorization. This is not only one of the best books I’ve read this year, but one of the best books I’ve read, period.

When Sigrun posted about Bluets on her blog at the very moment I was also discovering Nelson’s publication, I emailed and asked if she would be willing to write a short piece about the book. What follows is her essay, and a special excerpt from Bluets.

A special thanks to Sigrun Hodne, Maggie Nelson, and Wave Books for sharing their work.

 

 

 
I Never Knew How Blue Blueness Could Be
by Sigrun Hodne
Lets dive in, give in, lets go where things already have gotten tricky, messy – confused, where words and meanings are bouncing off in different directions, lets have a look at fragment number fifty-one:
51. You might as well act as if objects had the colors, The Encyclopedia says. –Well, it is as you please. But what would it look like to act otherwise?
Indeed, what would it look like to act otherwise?

Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets (Wave Books, 2009) is a bastard, a hybrid, transgressing all and every genre, as they are yet known. Partly essay, partly poetry, it’s a collection of fragments, of quotations, a memoir with a hint of philosophical investigations. Bluets won’t land in any category. But let’s, for the sake of simplicity, call it a long lyrical essay.

A long lyrical essay on the color blue—blue in a public, scientific, and historical sense, but also blue in the most personal sense.

There are several plot-lines: love, pain, friendship, and loss, to mention just a few.

This is how it all begins:
1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal.
In art-history, color has often been understood as secondary to form, as something that “fills” the form. In Nelson’s work color take on the lead role (– just as love, the color blue is not an optional supplement, an accidental add-on).
2. And so, I fell in love with a color—in this case, the color blue—as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns.
A book about the color blue, what a peculiar idea!
13. At a job interview at a university, three men sitting across from me at a table. On my CV it says that I am currently working on a book about the color blue. I have been saying this for years without writing a word. It is, perhaps, my way of making my life feel “in progress” rather than an ash of sleeve falling off a lit cigarette. One of the men asks Why blue? People ask me this question often. I never know how to respond. We don’t get to choose what or whom we love, I want to say. We just don’t get to choose.
Let’s go back to where we started, repeating our initial question: “… what would it look like to act otherwise?”
53. “We mainly suppose the experiential quality to be an intrinsic quality of the physical object” —this is the so-called systematic illusion of color. Perhaps it is also that of love. But I am not willing to go there—not just yet. I believed in you.
“Acting otherwise,” rejecting the systematic illusion of color is, I believe, to abandon a very central social norm: an understanding of the world as a place looking in a certain way – the same way – for each and every one of us. Systematic illusions are the basis of our impression that we share an external reality; it’s the place we meet and interconnect. Systematic illusions make us believe in a common world. ‘Acting otherwise’ is to reject common sense, renouncing the company of humans, and thereby subjecting oneself to alienation and solitude. The extreme consequence of rejecting the systematic illusions of humanity is finally ostracization, solipsism—
—falling silent.
“… But I am not willing to go there—not just yet….”

 
 

 
 

 
Bluets, An Excerpt
by Maggie Nelson
 
14. I have enjoyed telling people that I am writing a book
about blue without actually doing it. Mosty what happens
in such cases is that people give you stories or leads
or gifts, and then you can play with these things instead
of with words. Over the past decade I have been given
blue inks, paintings, postcards, dyes, bracelets, rocks,
precious stones, watercolors, pigments, paperweights,
goblets, and candies. I have been introduced to a man
who had one of his front teeth replaced with lapis lazuli,
solely because he loved the stone, and to another who
worships blue so devoudy that he refuses to eat blue food
and grows only blue and white flowers in his garden,
which surrounds the blue ex-cathedral in which he lives.
I have met a man who is the primary grower of organic indigo
in the world, and another who sings Joni Mitchell’s
Blue in heartbreaking drag, and another with the face of a
derelict whose eyes literally leaked blue, and I called this
one the prince of blue, which was, in fact, his name.
 
15. I think of these people as my blue correspondents,
whose job it is to send me blue reports from the field.

 
[…]

July 2012

The Sunday Poem : Jorge Carrera Andrade’s Micrograms

By |07.28.12|

 

 

“The images of Jorge Carrera Andrade are so extraordinarily clear, so connected to the primitive I imagine I am…participating in a vision already lost to the world. It is a place melancholy but grand.”      — […]

April 2012

The Sunday Poem : Noelle Kocot

By |04.21.12|

 

 

Noelle Kocot’s latest book of poetry, The Bigger World, is a collection of  character sketches. Told in a straightforward, surreal style—one that recalls folktales, ancient myths, and fairytales—Kocot has stripped each piece down to its essentials. […]

The Sunday Poem : Gennady Aygi, Translated by Sarah Valentine

By |04.07.12|

 

 

Gennady Aygi (1934-2006) is widely considered to be one of the great avant-garde poets from the former Soviet Union. He was born in Chuvashia, a territory located in the western part of Russia. In 1958 he […]