Thursday, December 17, 2009

 

When I was in the process of putting Lauren Levin’s Not Time in my Recently Received list for the blog a couple of weeks ago, I noted that this volume, small even by chapbook standards (13 pages says the website, but only seven hold text), was uncommonly handsome, with a vellum cover and obvious attention to production values. As I mostly do, I glanced at the text, the first line of which reads:

Saccade is not a word I would use because it is too interesting

That stopped me right in my tracks. Saccade, meaning rapid eye movement, is not a word I would use because it is too interesting? This was already the most interesting line I had read in a few weeks, which is what got me to head over to the Boxwood Editions website for the book where I discovered the video I linked to here on November 29th. Listening to the video, I felt the excitement one gets realizing that a new enthusiasm is the real deal.

There were only 75 copies of Not Time printed, so I don’t know if you can still get one in time for Christmas or not. But if it’s possible, you should do so. It’s a great little book. Levin is totally in touch with the aural materiality of the sign:

Filip.     Thwacks.     Thaddeus, stand,  in that clearly

That’s a line further down the same first page (also the page with the most text, 16 lines of it, gathered in what I take to be four stanzas, tho a different reader might see three). The language there is as physical as any you might find in a poem by Robert Grenier or (to use a more classical ear) Kenneth Irby.

So I took the book with me up to New York City, along with a few others, and managed to make it last three full days by reading each page many times out loud before I considered that I had truly read it.

Casting about online to see what else I can find of hers, I come across other sections of Not Time that are not in this book, tho I can’t tell you why, plus a reading at Canessa Park that Andrew Kenower recorded back in 2007, a reference to an earlier book, and other work that’s online. Kenower’s site has a good set of links to what is online. The work in Typo feels close to me in spirit to what I see in Not Time, and MiPoesias offers both text & it being read by Levin. She also co-edits on of those little mags I’ve never seen, Mrs. Maybe, and how many journals these days are taking their titles from Robert Duncan?

For me, it always makes sense to say that some new work, or a new writer, is “like” or “closest” to X poet, because it helps me to keep the mental map in my head moderately orderly. But in Levin’s case, I can’t find any analogy that strikes me as appropriate. She’s really not like anyone else whose work I know, and when I do sometimes catch an echo of something (the syntax of the work in MiPoesias, for example, brought to mind Leslie Scalapino), it’s such a minor part of what’s there that it’s misleading almost to have the recognition.

All of which makes me wish that there was a big fat book, 100 pages plus, that I could pick up and just wade into. I’d figure out all the reasons this work excites me. And just maybe it would get wide enough distribution so that lots of other people would come to share my new enthusiasm.

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