Friday, March 13, 2009

Rob Halpern's Disaster Suites is NOW OUT with Palm Press

Below is the ad for Disaster Suites sent to me by Jane Sprague at Palm Press, plus a little excerpt from a double review I wrote last fall for the Poetry Project Newsletter (now available online in a PDF format) on Rob's book and Brett Evans' and Frank Sherlock's Ready-to-Eat Individual...

New from Palm Press:

Disaster Suites by Rob Halpern

"A paradox sets these disquieting Disaster Suites into motion. They produce a music--missing in the count now counts as one--reaching for the disappearance of the conditions that make it audible: war, so-called natural catastrophe, a public sphere where there is no / Public. As in the songs of William Blake and the sci-fi of Octavia Butler, these Suites sing against their own beauty and their seemingly perpetual present, which is why they seem so strangely archaic and futuristic at once.

In complex patterns of meter and rhyme, Disaster's "I" summons its own kind of "counting" against the physics of finance and exchange. Yet the music that results can only be heard--the drowned and the bombed--in between and against the other tracks which Halpern intricately lays down: the signing of capital, the burble of mass media, the daily noise of bodies who work, fuck and love. This stunning book made me fall in love with lyric poetry all over again."
—Sianne Ngai

"It’s hip to be deaf to the larger sounds of our time because the hip want a party, not THIS WORLD as it is! Fuck THAT! I want THIS poetry where the atonal crisis wails and sputters. Negotiate with yourself, it’s your life, in our world, at the line, and the next line of Halpern’s amazing book. Gross profits and grotesque guilty pleas align with the knife here. The stress of our injuries, you can feel your body ache while reading, now leave us to it Halpern, you’ve done your job better than anyone else could! I’m grateful for these poems."
—CA Conrad, author of Deviant Propulsion

"That disaster could be arranged—in the musical sense—for a human voice would be a thing too dreadful to celebrate were it not a realization of what it means to be an instrument of history. In Rob Halpern’s Disaster Suites, the lyric I is a disturbed, disturbing presence in a world we recognize as inadequate but ours, its song a reminder of our dreadful yet beautiful potential."
—Benjamin Friedlander

Disaster Suites by Rob Halpern
Paper, 86 pages
Palm Press
ISBN 978-0-9789262-6-7

Palm Press titles are also available through SPD, Small Press Distribution.

"While in Ready-to-Eat Individual there is a sense that one is being invited into a local conversation, full of anger and frustration and concern, but also emboldened by a sense of solidarity—that people are bound together by the same fucked-up situation—it may be interesting how Rob provides a similar feeling in Disaster Suites, however in a non-localizing way. While Brett and Frank overcome the hardened, ironic voices of empire through a site-specific dialogue—the fact that their book prioritizes local particulars that necessarily touch other localities and global situations—Halpern allegorizes lyrical poetry’s complicity with an entire global network of social disasters which include Katrina, and even become determined by Katrina (Rob’s book was begun immediately after the storm, and completed as the first draft of a manuscript following the death of his close friend and colleague, kari edwards; Disaster Suites’ cover also features drawings, drawn from memory by the artist, after photographs of homes devastated by Katrina), but also encompass movements between sites, and beyond site itself towards all that is being made invisible, occulted by the fatal abstractions of capital.

To trace all that Disaster Suites relates would be too difficult a task for a short review like this one (please see my pieces at Wild Horses of Fire blog, at the Nonsite Collective’s website, and forthcoming at Jacket for more on Rob’s work). There is the Iraq war, the military-industrial complex, organ harvesting, genetic engineering, genetic modification of crops, land use, commodity exchange, labor exploitation—all of the bad effects of a beefed-up neoliberalism. But if I could emphasize a connection between these two books, it is the sense that both are searching for a new relationship between the writer/poem and reader, one mediated by affect, and the affective modalities, specifically, of one’s being related by inextricable disasters across an entire social nexus.

Through affection (which is not the antithesis of irony, and, in fact, probably its complement, or inversion) the form of the poem wants us to feel anew, as well as think anew through some felt aspect or tonality of the poem. Similar to some works by Robert Creeley, or the breeziness of much New Narrative, in the poems of Disaster Suites the reader finds themselves in the throes of a projectivist (that is, breath-based) negative dialectics. But whereas Creeley’s poetry is distinctly straight (despite recent attempts to queer it, such as in many of CAConrad’s wonderful poems from Deviant Propulsion, or Michael Davidson’s and Charles Altieri’s takes on Creeley and embodiment), Disaster Suites opens up to new erotic possibilities—erotic possibilities activated by Rob’s unique person of course, but also by an unprecedented historical situation that lyrical poetry and the arts at large are trying to respond to and find their way out of (as though from the singularity of a black hole). The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and forthcoming in any number of geopolitical “hot spots”; the intensifying regulation of social space; the Siren’s call of the mass media; the anesthetization of large parts of the population..."
—from the Poetry Project Newsletter, December/January 2008-2009

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