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The Sore Throat & Other Poems
"The Sore Throat & Other Poems is something of an aggregate ars poetica: it is a series of poems about the process — from trigger to thought to artifact — of writing poems. Fittingly, it is strange, challenging, and delightful." Sumita Chakraborty, Rain Taxi (Read the entire Rain Taxi review)
Synopses & Reviews
Poetry. Aaron Kunin believes that the part of yourself that you're most ashamed of is interesting and can be used as material for art. The poems of THE SORE THROAT, his second collection, come out of self-imposed semiotic limitation, yet manifest a fully inhabited psychological environment. Working with a limited vocabulary—200 words derived from a nervous habit of transcription—and with specific source texts—Ezra Pound's "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" and Maurice Maeterlinck's play Pelléas et Mélisande—Kunin makes hymn, epigram, ode, elegy, ballad, conversation, invective, confession, epitaph, inability, protest, love poem, (praise, valentine, aubade, seduction, defense of inconstancy), riddle, cosmogony, theodicy, vanity, and misplaced concreteness among his modes d'emploi. Combining rigorous formal procedure with a kind of automatic writing, THE SORE THROAT produces poems of unlikely, and heightened, sensitivity to nuances of feeling.
"Obsessive tics, habits, and mathematico-linguistic games lie behind some of the forms in Kunin's persistently fascinating, if occasionally appalling, sophomore effort, composed (the foreword says) with a 'limited vocabulary' of 170-200 words, including very common verbs and pronouns, but also 'dollar,' 'laughter,' and 'rat.' 'I'm inventing a machine,' Kunin says, 'for concealing my desire': his poems reveal, instead, the way that all desire, all human action, can make people look and sound oddly like machines. Kunin announces his ambition to expand the reach of the language: 'It must be possible,' he writes, 'otherwise// We would not have a word for it.' His estranged quatrains and nearly affectless prose poems, reaching back to the poetry of Samuel Beckett and to the early days of computer science, produce effects American poets could not have imagined before. For every passage that seems at first hard to decode, controlled wholly by absurd procedures, Kunin adds one that seems confrontationally pellucid. He is an experimental poet, but also an aphorist, even an insult comic: 'You are good for seeing and pleasure; your good habits are talking and laughter,' one page concludes. 'I wonder why you are weeping with your brother, the moron.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"How about someone from another planet?"
"This would make a great chorus for 'Nosferatu.'"
"How about someone from another planet?"—Peter Gizzi
"This would make a great chorus for 'Nosferatu.'"—Marjorie Welish
"It's the real thing."—Keith Waldrop
Combining formal procedure with a kind of automatic writing, The Sore Throat produces poems of unlikely, and heightened, sensitivity to nuances of feeling.
About the Author
Aaron Kunin is the author of FOLDING RULER STAR (Fence, 2005), a collection of small poems about shame; THE MANDARIN (Fence, 2008), a novel; and THE SORE THROAT and OTHER POEMS (Fence Books, 2010). He lives in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor of negative anthropology at Pomona College.
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