A Review By Way Of An Introduction

Last spring I had the honor of opening for Claudia Rankine at the Holloway Reading Series at UC Berkeley, and was lucky to have had poet, professor and series co-curator Geoffrey G. O’Brien introduce me and my work. What follows is the transcript of said introduction, obtained and published with his permission:

“Joshua Anderson’s poetry is explicitly about poetry, about what it can know and do, if it can be said to do anything, about where and when it takes place, if it does, and about the temporality and body English of reading it. It is therefore often inexplicitly about everything else and relies heavily on words like something, somewhere, what, that, this, and on other kinds of disappearance, marked by terms like gone, dissolution, and, most frequently, away, deictic pronouns come unmoored from their context and then are going, going, gone. This can sound a lot like Ashbery, say the spiritualized vagueness of Three Poems or “Clepsydra,” in which lines mostly record the time passing through them:

It is only when one realizes that this occurs

that when, somewhere along the way, it has become

But what happens in poetry’s carefully established vagueness does not stay in vagueness for Anderson, often it reaches out to touch what then feel like hyper-particularities—liquor stores and Augusts—moving from somewhere’s “ether” to a tongue on a body; but even this “oscillation” between the poem and the world it has “farawayed” has to be traced:

to touch a particular crack is to trace it

or to fight the urge to trace it and to

call into question the propriety of that

point at which one feels one should stop

touching it, touch it with something else,

or jump to another crack; it depends on

what or if you are looking for and what, and

whether or not you can trace over it in

something like the reverse,

Anderson calls this a “Critique of the Surface,” a parody of logic, of collision mechanics, of desire and fetish that ends up exceeding parody or stopping well short of it. Ashbery, reviewing Stein’s Stanzas in Meditation, would describe Anderson’s language as “made up almost entirely of colorless connecting words such as “where,” “which,” “these,” “of,” “not,” “have,” “about,” and so on, though now and then Miss Stein throws in an orange, a lilac, or an Albert to remind us that it really is the world, our world, that she has been talking about.” This “way of happening” Ashbery praises in Stein while describing his own practice is also why, must be why Anderson can write a line as colorless as “this must be why” and follow it with “I so often address / the world.””

To learn more first hand, you can purchase MY FIST IS A BOOK OF ETHICS online here, or offline at the places listed here, under “II.”.


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