This year, as in years past, UC Press is a proud sponsor of National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world. We thought this would be a good time to reflect a bit on a special Fall 2011 success, take a close look at our Spring 2012 titles, and finally give you a bit of a preview of what we have in store for you for Fall 2012.
Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Selections surveys the life and work of the Scottish poet, who is best known for his extraordinary garden, Little Sparta, a unique “poem of place” in which poetry, sculpture, and horticulture intersect. This book directs sustained attention to Finlay the verbal artist, revealing the full breadth and richness of his poetics. It illuminates the evolution from his early years of composing plays, stories, and lyrical poems to his discovery of Concrete poetry and his emergence as a key figure in the international avant-garde of the 1960s.
In the Bee Latitudes, Annah Sobelman’s second book, traverses and choreographs the places of passion where visible and invisible touch. With extraordinary ability to imagine her way far into an experience, making new moves in the English language at each and every point, Sobelman enlists many voices, questions, and bodies (mostly in Taos and Florence) that press toward Emersonian nature. In vibrant, malleable, and layered syntax, these poems break conventions of lineation and punctuation, each utterance at the frontier of the articulate, yet necessarily pitched toward the insistently visceral.
The Banjo Clock — For Karen Garthe, poetry is a Molotov cocktail. A master of radical invention, Garthe combines brio of conception with linguistic virtuosity, bringing language to new life from the inside at breakneck speed. The Banjo Clock, her second collection, cultivates a luxuriant sensibility even as it interrupts poetic continuity with cuts, ironies, sharp wit, and wild recklessness. In poems that consider poetry itself, Garthe writes about preparing the medium, the ink, “the motion of new utility.” She then turns to America’s psychic maladies and the need to rehabilitate our democracy, now floundering in the glare of TV’s blue depressive light.
Gravesend, which takes its name from the English town at the mouth of the Thames, revisits the genre of the ghost story and, through fragmentation, juxtaposition, and allusion, powerfully summons the uncanny, the spectral presence. Cole Swensen delves into ancient fables, the Bible, medieval records, Victorian ghost stories, contemporary interviews, and more to explore the effects of the ghostly on our daily lives, at times returning to the notion of “gravesend,” implicitly asking if all ends in the grave or if death itself has an end. Swensen’s focus on language shapes these visitations—glimpses of the supernatural or intuitions of the afterlife in all its mystery—allowing readers to ponder such eternal questions further or simply to experience the frisson that accompanies the perception of a ghost or the reading of a poem.
Robert Duncan — This definitive biography gives a brilliant account of the life and art of Robert Duncan (1919–1988), one of America’s great postwar poets. Lisa Jarnot takes us from Duncan’s birth in Oakland, California, through his childhood in an eccentrically Theosophist household, to his life in San Francisco as an openly gay man who became an inspirational figure for the many poets and painters who gathered around him. Weaving together quotations from Duncan’s notebooks and interviews with those who knew him, Jarnot vividly describes his life on the West Coast and in New York City and his encounters with luminaries such as Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Paul Goodman, Michael McClure, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley, and Charles Olson.
Robert Duncan: The Collected Early Poems and Plays — (October 2012) A landmark in the publication of twentieth-century American poetry, this first volume of the long-awaited collected poetry, non-critical prose, and plays of Robert Duncan gathers all of Duncan’s books and magazine publications up to and including Letters: Poems 1953–1956. Deftly edited, it thoroughly documents the first phase of Duncan’s distinguished life in writing, making it possible to trace the poet’s development as he approaches the brilliant work of his middle period.
Poems for the Millennium, Vol 4, The University of California Book of North African Literature — (November 2012) In this fourth volume of the landmark Poems for the Millennium series, Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour present a comprehensive anthology of the written and oral literatures of the Maghreb, the region of North Africa that spans the modern nation states of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania, and including a section on the influential Arabo-Berber and Jewish literary culture of Al-Andalus, which flourished in Spain between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. Beginning with the earliest pictograms and rock drawings and ending with the work of the current generation of post-independence and diasporic writers, this volume takes in a range of cultures and voices, including Berber, Phoenician, Jewish, Roman, Vandal, Arab, Ottoman, and French. Though concentrating on oral and written poetry and narratives, the book also draws on historical and geographical treatises, philosophical and esoteric traditions, song lyrics, and current prose experiments. These selections are arranged in five chronological “diwans” or chapters, which are interrupted by a series of “books” that supply extra detail, giving context or covering specific cultural areas in concentrated fashion. The selections are contextualized by a general introduction that situates the importance of this little-known culture area and individual commentaries for nearly each author.