When I picked up Fred Moten's In the Break, on the suggestion of Thom Donovan, I was expecting it to be full of interest and challenge but holy fuck. In addition to being completely brilliant, it's also very generous. My only guess is that I'll be reading that book for the rest of my life, though I hope I can say something more thoughtful about it sometime soon.
Stephanie Gray's new book is yet-to-be-published, but I got a chance to read it last year and it totally blew me away. She works so directly. I mean, her style is so direct it can afford music and detours and repetition and all of it only gets to you quicker. Her first book Heart Stoner Bingo is great and so are the films she makes. Someone publish her next book; the world will thank you for it. Here's something new: http://www.esquemag.org/2012/
Letter Machine, which has been tearing shit up of late (cannot wait for the new Eddie Berrigan), dropped a beauty on us last year with Farid Matuk's This Isa Nice Neighborhood. If Farid quits writing tomorrow, he will have written "Tallying Song" and no one could ask much more of a poet than that. But he won't quit. He's too tall to quit. Not to mention dark and handsome. You eat a burger with the guy and it's somehow both a sensual and intellectual experience. Look out for a long, thoughtful review by Mary Austin Speaker in Painted Bride sometime soon.
Speaking of MAS, my favorite single event of last year had to be her chapbook party in Jay Grabowski's West Village backyard last fall. J (Push Press) published a selection of her long poem, The Bridge, all written while commuting back and forth to work over the Manhattan Bridge. We stapled and creased until the moment it began and then sat back in a wash of starlight and whiskey to hear Mary just kill it, all our voices creating the bridge as she went. It's a love song to NYC and its sheer peopleness, the way so much is shared and borne, the way a most uncommon living becomes common. Oh yeah, and I'm lucky enough to share a life with her.
Toward the end of the year so much outrageous gold dropped I sort of lost count. First there was Brandon Brown's Catullus book. Amazing. I've already lent it out three times. I keep talking about it. Every time I opened it up I learned something. Then there was Dana Ward's This Can't Be Life. I could have easily made my whole post about this book, but I'm too busy thinking about Dana's next book, which I have the honor of midwifing with Futurepoem. My guess is not a single Dana Ward book will be less than indispensable this decade. Sorry for the double neg. And it's been said a million times, but "Typing Wild Speech" is the achievement of a civilization. I've never bought ten copies of a chapbook before. People need them. Not to mention "Sugar Falls" and just about everything else. Finally, I was overjoyed to receive my copy of Noel Black's Uselysses, accompanied by a beautiful special edition large format chappy, Moby K. Dick. Noel is like the consummate culture worker. He transforms whatever community he's in. Often he's loud and opinionated, which draws energy to issues and events. But his writing is almost, I don't know, gentle. He wants you to sojourn with him as he thinks across world/worlds, even if the journey never leaves the bathtub. He lives the life of the mind, but lets it splinter with the joy of domesticity, introducing far-flung minds to each other in the city of word people that occurs in the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom. He introduced me to Poetry when I was young and dumb in Daly City. It looks like he's still doing it.