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88 Sonnetsby Clark Coolidge
Synopses & Reviews
"Clark Coolidge is a one-man avant-garde."—Peter Gizzi
Clark Coolidge's embrace of the sonnet form is a gemlike amalgam of narrative urge, wacky name-dropping, and pure visuality. Coolidge's legendary proliferation—as many as ten sonnets in a single day—marries the stunning variety of his intellect on the mountaintop of formal inquiry.
"LIBRARY OF HAY"
So slow death oft the onyx dolls
each in its own lab colors rollicking encores
who's there? do you want your museum
room infiltrated? only the singing parts
terrible loss of air raid powder
entanglements poled on kapok
the last to be heard? this ploy of dolls
irradiated heads and curls of coffin wood
death is always plural here? stolid
anyway someway still enters the frontway
through the water door to Manikin Lake
the throttles held down there you went to
hair school against my wisdom thus the
remnants spelled out there then coded there
Clark Coolidge was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Though associated with the Language Poets, his work predates the movement and despite close contact with many of them he remains distinct from any movement, literary or political. The author of more than twenty books of verse and prose, he is also the editor of Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations.
"It would be reductive to say that Coolidge is merely 'at play' in this latest collection of jazzy and frenetic sonnets — though playfulness is certainly one of the many characteristics of these poems; his dissociative leaps and cast of imaginary friends are also an argument for allowing the imagination to roam freely and be followed. 'Let's go,' he writes in 'Sober If Not Somber,' 'even those attitudes borrowed from Cancel Farm/...the women were crazy there they opened/ for anybody even Monkey Stern/ Nancy Billfold Attorney Bark Weld Esq.' The white spaces in Coolidge's sonnets (indicated here by brackets) serve as both a caesura and a break in his atonal music, and it's into these holes that the voices of Coolidge's traveling circus come rushing with their arguments and jibes: 'see them smoking over there? they're not friends/ so can we see some art now? a plate of grass/ quarrels on the way to you have maybe/ a chewing gum waitress? a tar mattress?' While one might justifiably call lines such as these nonsense, one ought to understand that sensemaking is not always a virtue in and of itself for Coolidge. He's serious when he writes that it's 'not shit art at all but stare at it.' In the same way jazz musicians had to break from keys in order to better understand music, Coolidge wants you to get him by not getting him at all." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
One of America's most idiosyncratic and quixotic poets returns to form with this collection of relentless, hilarious, and visionary sonnets.
About the Author
Clark Coolidge was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Though associated with the Language Poets, his work predates the movement and despite close contact with many of them he remains distinct from any movement, literary or political. His primary literary influences are Rilke, Beckett, and Kerouac, but jazz, geology, and painting also play a large part. This poetic purist shares with many avant-garde artists of the 1950s and 1960s the belief that art is discovery, and so creates an exploratory improvisational momentum in its composition which aims to tell the story that has never been thought before in a writing which is itself the primary focus, rather than its subject matter. The author of more than 20 books of verse and prose, including Own Face, At Egypt, The Crystal Text, The Maintains, Solution Passage, and Mine: One That Enters the Stories, he is also the editor of Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations (The Documents of Twentieth-Century Art), 2010.
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