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City Lights Spotlight #05: Compression & Purityby Will Alexander
Synopses & Reviews
The fifth volume of our Spotlight poetry series, Compression and Purity is a new collection of poetry by Los Angelesbased African American surrealist Will Alexander. Known for densely textured visionary epics influenced by poets like Aimé Césaire and César Vallejo, Alexander here returns to shorter forms to address his ecological, cosmological, and historical concerns. Highlights include a monologue from the perspective of "The Blood Penguin," a song by the "New Water on Mars," and Alexander's autobiographical lyric essay, "My Interior Vita," describing the evolution of his artistic consciousness through jazz and surrealism. Compression and Purity confirms Alexander's reputation among surrealism's foremost contemporary practitioners.
"This new & rich gathering of Will Alexander's works—always in progress—marks him again as the true successor among us to the likes of Surreal & deeply explorative figures like Breton & Césaire. No other poet writing in America today does it the way that Alexander does—a range of words & images that startle & create new pathways for language & the mind-in-freedom (“alchemical, mesmeric, totalic,” as he names them in these pages). Compression & Purity, so aptly titled, is the work of a true American & world master —& a joy to have & read." —Jerome Rothenberg
African American surrealism that extends from the ocean floor to the outer reaches of space.
About the Author
Will Alexander (born 1948) is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, visual artist, and pianist. He was the recipient of a Whiting Fellowship for Poetry in 2001 and a California Arts Council Fellowship in 2002. He was the subject of a colloquium published in the prestigious African American cultural journal, Callaloo (volume 22, number 2) in 1999. Over the years he has worked several jobs (including the LA Lakers box office) and taught at various institutions, including University of California, San Diego, New College (San Francisco, CA), Hofstra University, and Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Boulder, CO, in addition to being associated with the nonprofit organization Theatre of Hearts/Youth First, serving at-risk youth. He is a lifelong resident of Los Angeles.
Alexanders poetry and his visual art have been greatly influenced by surrealism, particularly Octavio Paz, Bob Kaufman, and Philip Lamantia, as well as Francophone Negritude writers such as Aimé Cesaire and Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo, and cosmic figures like musician Sun Ra. Much of Alexanders work is characterized by a powerful mix of metaphor and sophisticated language.
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