Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2016!

Few exceptions aside, the most compelling, challenging, absorbing literary art is being produced by small presses and their respective writers. I asked a number of writers, editors, and publishers to send me a list of small press books to look out for in 2016. Below you’ll find my own list, which is informed by Kate Angus, John Cayley, Lauren Cerand, Samuel R. Delany, Rikki Ducornet, Andrew Ervin, Lily Hoang, Sean Lovelace, Scott McClanahan, Hubert O’Hearn, Jane Unrue, and Curtis White.

Below you’ll also find lists from Jeff Bursey, Tobias Carroll, Gabino Iglesias, Janice Lee, Dawn Raffel, Nick Francis Potter, John Reed, Adam Robinson, Michael Seidlinger, Terese Svoboda, Jason Teal, Angela Woodward, and Jacob Wren. All the abovementioned people are small press heroes and great writers in their own right. My thanks to all of them.

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Big Other’s Birthday Tribute to William H. Gass, 2012

https://bigotherbigother.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/tunneling-gass-dipiazz1.jpg?w=300

Photo by Frank Di Piazza

It’s probably too easy a move to begin my very brief remarks about Gass’s use of architecture as a metaphor by trotting out the old horse of a quote about language being the house of Being, before flogging it to death once and for all; but it seems appropriate, nevertheless, to do so, especially when I think about Gass’s positing that the sentence is a container of consciousness. Actually, the quote from Heidegger is useful only when held in contrast with Gass’s ideas about language. Whereas Heidegger placed speech, that is, the continuum of speech, which includes talking, listening, and silence, at the center of his theory of language, Gass does not see writing as a mere supplement to speech. The continuum of writing includes four modes: persuasive, expository, expressive, and literary; and two hybrid modes: argumentative (a fusion of persuasive and expository) and critical (a fusion of expository and expressive) modes. Of these modes, it is the literary that receives the primary focus in Gass’s critical writing. And so, one might perhaps properly say that, for Gass, writing, or, rather, the sentence is the house of becoming. And what is it exactly that becomes in a sentence? For Gass, the sentence is a container of consciousness, a “verbal consciousness, of course, one built of symbols, not sensations; yet one of perceptions all the same: perceptions followed by thoughts like tracking hounds, and infused throughout by the energies of memory and desire, the moods emotions foster, and the reach, through imagery and other juxtapositions, of imagination…” (“The Aesthetic Structure of the Sentence”). Like any house, this container can take any number of forms:

[S]entences must be understood to contain all sorts of unused syntactical space; places that could be filled with more words, but, in any specific instance, aren’t…Sentences are like latticework, like fences, to be left open or prudently closed, their boards wide or narrow, pointy or level, the spaces between them, ditto….A sentence can sometimes give its reader such a strong sense of its overall character that it provokes a flight of fancy, a metaphorical description: it’s like a journey of discovery; it’s like a coil of rope, a triumphal column; it’s like a hallway or a chapel; it’s like a spiral stair. To me, for instance, Sir Thomas Browne’s triplet—“Grave stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oak.”—with its relentlessly stressed syllables (seven strong to one weak in the first row, seven to two in the second course, and six to one in the last) resembles a wall. I can even locate spots (the weak stresses) where its stones have crumbled. Families come to pieces the way the word does.

Yes, architecture is a theme running throughout William Gass’s oeuvre, not only in his critical work but in his fictions as well, particularly in The Tunnel, where tunnel-as-metaphor is used as the very structure from which the novel is built.

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Claire Donato’s “Literary Pillars”

(Compiled intuitively and without explanation as non-hierarchically as possible. Reflective of the now with some of then, only the tip of the iceberg. I am potentially cheating by numbering my list, which could go on forever.)

1. Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H., Hour of the Star, Near to the Wild Heart, Stream of Life, Crônicas, and, most recently, A Breath of Life
2. Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker
3. Rosmarie Waldrop, Curves to the Apple
4. David Jhave Johnston’s digital poetry: glia.ca
5. Judd Morrissey and Mark Jeffrey, The Precession: An 80 Foot Long Internet Art Performance Poem 
6. Ian Hatcher, Prosthesis
7. Jeff T. Johnson, Letters from the Archiverse
8. Lisa Robertson, Debbie: An Epic
9. Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl and The Melancholy of Anatomy
10. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
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The Latest from Octopus

Congratulations to Jenny Zhang, Christopher DeWeese, and Rebecca Farivar for having their manuscripts selected for publication by Octopus Books 2011.

Congratulations also to finalists: Claire Donato, Julie Doxsee, Laura Eve Engel, Sasha Fletcher, Dan Hoy, Brenda Iijima, George Kalamaras, Kirsten Kaschock, Seth Landman, Linnea Ogden, Alexandria Peary, Craig Rebele, Rob Schlegel, S. E. Smith, and Melinda Wilson.

And in other Octopus news. . . .

www.octopusmagazine.com

 

#14 is live and features the following sixteen long poems:

The Water’s Piety in Doubt and Question by J. Michael Martinez

It is Especially Dangerous To Be Conscious of Oneself by Jeff Alessandrelli

Dwell-E by Brandon Downing

The Massachusetts Book of the Dead by Katie Peterson

Coney Island Avenue by Andy Fitch

Length of Fetch by Jesse Lichtenstein

A Geography of Pleasure by Amy King

Descend, Descend by Samuel Amadon

Vertigo and Bone Room by Julie Doxsee

from Rosalia by Molly Gaudry

The Kingdom of Blizzards by Michael Rerick

The Erotic Life of Art: A Seance with William Carlos Williams by Eileen R. Tabios

Topic Sentences by Dot Devota

We Know in 2010, We Survive by Claire Becker

The Personal History of Wind by Jennifer Denrow

Dark Highway by Zvonko Karanović transl. by Ana Božičević.

And the following reviews:

Not Blessed by Harold Abramowitz, reviewed by Janice Lee

Under the Quick by Molly Bendall, reviewed by Suzette Bishop

Sum of Every Lost Ship by Allison Titus, reviewed by David Carillo

Mr. Worthington’s Beautiful Experiments on Splashes, reviewed by Sommer Browning