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 worksalways in progressmarks 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 doesa 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
"Born in South Central Los Angeles, and a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Alexander, who got his start publishing in Clayton Eshleman's groundbreaking journal Sulfur in 1981, is vastly under-appreciated--an important avant-garde poet, who deserves a wider audience." Huffington Post
"Compression and Purity works well as an introduction to Alexander's black surrealist oeuvre while still engaging and challenging his longtime readers. Though emotionally cold and detached, the poems more than make up for it with a genuine love of language and its power to effect change." The San Francisco Bay Guardian
"This new volume from the L.A.-based African American poet includes an autobiographical, lyrical essay about how jazz and surrealism affected the evolution of his artistic sensibility." Los Angeles Magazine
"Will Alexander is a poet and poetic-critical interpreter of the world with a uniquely compelling voice, which has finally gained him the kind of recognition he deserves. . . . For those who know his works and those who dont, his clarities and opacities, with their internal rhythmic charge, will invoke a dynamic that figures, as the constellations once did, the myriad connections that tie us to our human and natural universe; the one interpenetrating the other without cease." Allan Graubard, Leonardo
"Alexander's comfort and willingness to discuss occasions beyond our normal daily experiences excites the imagination with the warmth of ecstatic re-envisioning. This is writing that opens up new worlds, crisp and direct in its offering of unique and valuable gifts." - Rain Taxi
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.