Synopses & Reviews
Poetry. With INVOLUNTARY LYRICS, we see Aaron Shurin again at the vanguard of lyric eloquence and ethical rigor as he audaciously uses one of the seminal sonnet sequences in the history of English love poetry to extend the limits of current innovative practice. Shurin's position--the sharply etched immediacy of his experience--is unabashedly that of a sexually active gay man in contemporary America, yet--and, in fact, because of--the exactitude of his insights into this subject matter, the risks and revelations of his vision extend our own sense of what it means to be human. His deft reflections show us how much the involuntary expression of language is suffused with cultural intent, how much the rhythms of the past permeate the present--and how many lost friends, lovers, opportunities, can be heard in the music of the current moment, if we listen with the kind of lyric attention that Shurin brings to language.
"Were a line of Shurin's poetry a pirate's plank, the condemned could never guess the paces remaining before their inevitable plummet: these are poems whose lines swing out only to curve back, replacing air with another foothold. Yet regardless of how they race or meander, some anchor always governs, be it form's faint dictate-each poem contains 14 lines-or that 'each "Involuntary Lyric" ends its lines with the same words as a correspondingly numbered Shakespeare sonnet,' as Shurin reveals in 'A Foot Note.' While Shakespeare may be one of the heavyweights preventing this collection from drifting too far out of the San Francisco Bay, other imperatives also intervene, 'ordering / quotidian life according to compulsions': desire between men, AIDS, aging, job security and literary influences from Whitman to Proust to Burroughs. Ultimately, the poems contain all unspent desire, for 'Composition / deems none / such interruption permissible,' favoring attention to the present moment of writing over distracted action. The resultant surplus of kinetic energy explodes in a theatrical flourish of exclamation-'"Just tell them what I have seen!"'-as often as it opts for objectivity and to 'ride / permutations without disdain / to meet another face / of mine.' Indeed, in this confessional intervention into language poetry, readers may note how the many 'vagrant eyes' shift into the singular, leaving the poet center-stage." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Using Shakespeare's sonnets, this book shows how the involuntary expression of language is suffused with cultural intent, how much the rhythms of the past permeate the presentand how many lost friends, lovers, and opportunities can be heard in the music of the current moment.
About the Author
Aaron Shurin is an American poet, essayist, and educator. Since 1999, he has co-directed the Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco. Aaron Shurin received his M.A. in Poetics from New College of California, where he studied under poet Robert Duncan. He is a recipient of California Arts Council Literary Fellowships in poetry (1989, 2002), and a NEA fellowship in creative nonfiction (1995). Shurin is the former Associate Director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University and the author of numerous books of poetry, including: Into Distances (1993), The Paradise of Forms: Selected Poems (1999), A Door (2000), Involuntary Lyrics (2005); and volumes of prose, including Unbound: A Book of AIDS (1997) and King of Shadows (2008), a collection of essays.