A week from next Tuesday, Belladonna series in NYC, a series that for the past decade has catered to women's writing in particular, will celebrate the release of five books, all of which are must reads in my opinion: Dorothea Lasky's Black Life (Wave Books), Brenda Iijima's revv. you’ll—ution (Displaced Press) and If Not Metamorphic (Ahsahta Press), Eleni Stecopoulos' Armies of Compassion (Palm Press), and David Wolach's Occultations (Black Radish Books).

For Stecopoulos' and Wolach's books I have written blurbs, which I post below. With the exception of Kyle Schlesinger's Hello Helicopter (Blazevox, 2007), they are the only books I have ever blurbed, so the prose kind of wobbles between review (a genre/format I am more comfortable with) and blurb, which obviously has a distinct metabolism--the metabolism of the sound bite, revolutionary slogan, and commercial wrapped into one.

For those in NYC a week from Tuesday, please come out to hear what I hope will be a wonderful gathering for four of my very favorite contemporary poets.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010; 7:30 pm
Closing Event for Belladonna's
Year of New Releases

Dorothea Lasky (Black Life)
Brenda Iijima (revv. you’ll—ution &
If Not Metamorphic)
Eleni Stecopoulos (Armies of Compassion)
David Wolach (Occultations )
Dixon Place
161 Christie Street; New York City

Eleni Stecopoulos' Armies of Compassion
Eleni Stecopoulos is among a generation of poets currently writing in the United States effectively correlating somatics (the everyday practices and conditions of bodies) and geopolitics through a radical and emergent lyric. In Armies of Compassion, Stecopoulos' first full-length book of poems, the poet's body becomes a site allegorizing disasters of "immunity." The principle disaster being the Hegelian-trap which over-identifies 'self' as 'other,' and the other as potential outbreak. As the epigraph to “Autoimmunity,” from Antonin Artaud's Theater and Its Double, reads: "The Grand-Saint-Antoine did not bring the plague to Marseille. It was already there." Which is to say, what plagues us is not alterity, but the dangerous fiction that 'self' and 'other' are not in fact coconstitutive, and that identities persist rather than relationships. Discoursing with both ancient and modern healing practices, and calling into question the hegemony of modern Western medicine, Stecopoulos opens the field for what a body can do liberated from the disciplinary triage of military, capital, and clinic. Like Antonin Artaud, Robert Duncan, and Hannah Weiner before her, language experiment follows from bodily necessity and contingency. Conditioned by despair, there is somehow hope in "guts." Having guts (courage), but also attending their literal fact (the innards determining how we act, thus are). Armed with witz and a sonorous, whip-smart ear, Stecopoulos is a standing army of one swerving in caesura to the full attention of her reader.

David Wolach's Occultations
An occultation is a withdrawing, a flight or sentence into non-existence. In David Wolach's Occultations, the reader becomes propinquitous to so much that she can't see, so withdrawn has the actual world become through a media which functions as the eyes and ears to the detriment of a becoming proprioceptive. By amplifying the senseless via pun and synaesthesic language effects, Wolach overturns common sense and returns his reader to their senses. What would be contemporary peeks out through Wolach's picnolepsy. Element (principally fire) is not merely a theme but a burden--"the fires have not died / they've moved away with the j o b s"--the ethical burden of whatever remains in the movement between site and nonsite, I and we, direct address and a corrosive intertextual poetics in the service of secular messianic event. "dear, __________" "who will take me from our ashen / refuge?" Reading Occultations 'I' takes refuge in loss, lack, and non-presence saved only what by what cannot be redeemed. The wreck of our bodies shored by the catastrophic convergence of late capitalist neoliberalism and cross-cultural moral fundamentalisms.

Originally Published: March 31st, 2010

Thom Donovan lives in New York City where he edits Wild Horses of Fire weblog (whof.blogspot.com) and coedits ON Contemporary Practice with Michael Cross and Kyle Schlesinger. He is a participant in the Nonsite Collective and a curator for the SEGUE reading series (NYC). He holds a Ph.D. in English...