New Collected Poems by George Oppen, edited by Michael Davidson
“There are things / We live among ‘and to see them / Is to know ourselves’” begins George Oppen’s Of Being Numerous. For anyone interested in the materiality of language, Oppen is indispensable. Built on a lifelong conviction that words matter, spare as they are unsparing, these poems hold up to reading after reading. And they resonate in the current political climate no less than when they were written. This edition includes a CD, all of Oppen’s published and many previously unpublished works, a great preface by Eliot Weinberger, an introduction by editor Michael Davidson, and photographs.
Ann Hamilton by Joan Simon
There are lots of books on Ann Hamilton’s work, but this is my favorite. As a poet, I have learned so much from studying Ann Hamilton’s installations. To me, they are activated metaphorical spaces I can explore with all six senses. They are what I would like poems to be—the possibilities of response dictated by site and material.
The Making of the Pré by Francis Ponge, translated by Lee Fahnestock
Though this book is out of print, it’s well worth tracking down. Ponge considered poets to be the ambassadors of mute objects, responsible for finding the energetic source that equally generates both the word and the thing. This edition traces the dynamic relationship between Ponge’s “meadow” (le pré) as living ecosystem and as emerging text. It offers illustrations, facsimile manuscripts, and a passionate, meticulous translation of the journal entries alongside the poem itself. “Yes, a sort of element. Earth, air, water, fire, the pré. (Which, too, belongs to the world as one of its foundations). The vegetal reduced to its most simple expression (grass).”
Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña, edited and translated by Rosa Alcalá
This new compilation is the next best thing to experiencing Cecilia Vicuña’s work live. Her performances, transcribed here, are part song, part installation, part political and environmental activism, all magic. For Vicuña, poetry wants to be three-dimensional—it happens in physical acts, in actual space, in the world at large. “My mother recounts the day she found me ‘writing.’ No one had taught me how to write. ‘What are you doing, mijita?’ she asked. ‘I’m painting,’ I told her, and went on speaking to the signs.”
Jody Gladding lives in Vermont, translates French, and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her newest book of poems, Translations from Bark Beetle, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions.