Between Blog and Book: Mairéad Byrne’s The Best of (What’s Left Of) Heaven

Publishing Genius, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9820813-5-8
208 pages

A kind of Lydia Davis of the poetry world, Mairéad Byrne is an absolute whiz at the short poem; she excels at the one-line poem, the two-line poem, the one word poem, the brief list, the permutational riff, the conversational aside, the set-up and punchline, the Objectivist observation, the found fragment, the compressed paragraph, the precise and neatly cropped haiku.  In what will undoubtedly become a classic ars poetica (mischievously titled “Donald Hall Would Hate Me”), she says,

My poems are usually brief
they resemble each other
they are anecdotal
they do not extend themselves
they make no great claims
they connect small things to other small things


While it is tempting to dub her a miniaturist, an inveterate tinkerer of small verbal machines, I don’t want to detract from Byrne’s truly holistic vision — her conception of poetry as a lived practice that exists within time, as an active and encompassing mode of being. The “small things” that are her poems connect to each other in such enriching and dialogic ways that The Best of (What’s Left Of) Heaven becomes, in the process of reading, greater than the sum of its constitutive parts. Taken as a whole it amounts to an oftentimes comedic, sometimes steely-eyed, but ultimately compassionate manifesto on how to live life poetically: how to find, in our post-modern world, what will suffice — and, alternately, how to re-calibrate our perception so that we can fully experience, in the words of Shelley, the “wonder of our being.”

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Belladonna* & Dusie Present: The Summer Reading

Kate Zambreno (whom I’m trying to get nicknamed “KaZam!”—do pass it on) asked me to draw your kind attention to this upcoming event:

Belladonna* & Dusie present:

The Summer Reading

Please join us in celebrating these authors and their new books:

Date and Time: Thursday, 12 August 2010, 8:00 pm

Place: BookThugNation (100 N. 3rd St., between Berry St. & Wythe Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

The Unpublishables

Here’s a link to Publishing The Unpublishablean incredible project that’s “edited” (although I would call it curated) by Kenneth Goldsmith. Goldsmith writes:

What constitutes an unpublishable work? It could be many things: too long, too experimental, too dull; too exciting; it could be a work of juvenilia or a style you’ve long since discarded; it could be a work that falls far outside the range of what you’re best known for; it could be a guilty pleasure or it could simply be that the world judges it to be awful, but you think is quite good. We’ve all got a folder full of things that would otherwise never see the light of day. 

Invited authors were invited to ponder to that question. The works found here are their responses, ranging from an 1018-page manuscript (unpublishable due to its length) to a volume of romantic high school poems written by a now-respected innovative poet. You get the idea. 

The web is a perfect place to test the limits of unpublishability. With no printing, design or distribution costs, we are free to explore that which would never have been feasible, economically and aesthetically. While this exercise began as an exploration and provocation, the resultant texts are unusually rich; what we once considered to be our trash may, after all, turn out to be our greatest treasure. 

The series will conclude when the 100th manuscript is published. 

Please note that the series is by invitation only. 

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