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Dossier: On Race and Innovation
November 2015: Volume 42, Number 4

The contributors here are a dream team of some of the most innovative poets working in the area of “Race and Innovation.” There are two substantial (and key) essays here, by the distinguished scholars/critics, Fred Moten and Tyrone Williams. These essays provide a ground off of which the other pieces bounce.

The selections work together in a remarkably resonant way—the order of the pieces is superb, creating a kind of non-narrative unfolding of motifs and forms. Works go from poem to collage to fragment to visual intervention to essay—from legible to elusive—in a way that creates a constant dialog among these forms and works. Indeed, this is one of the best collections of “mixed genre” pieces I have seen. (It’s a spunky feature of the collection that two of the contributors, Vanessa Place and Lucas de Lima, who’ve been seen as having incompatible views on race, are both included.)

The University of Alabama Press is just now publishing What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America, ed. A. L Nielsen and Laurie Rainy, an anthology “that explodes narrow definitions of African American poetry by examining experimental poems often excluded from previous scholarship.” boundary 2’s collection can be seen as extending this anthology into the present moment, giving it new and lively twists and turns. The collection begins with a compelling piece by Beth Loffreda and Claudia Rankine, which is connected to their recent, and immediately relevant, collection from Fence, The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind.

As to the ongoing discussion of the relation of innovation to the poetry/poetics of race: this collection makes it clear that if there is a poetic avant-garde in American poetry, this is it.

—Charles Bernstein



Dawn Lundy Martin / The Rules of the Game: An Editor’s Note

Beth Loffreda and Claudia Rankine / Statement

Beth Loffreda / Reconstructions (1)

/ Reconstructions (2)

Claudia Rankine /

Cathy Park Hong / Forcemeat

Ronaldo V. Wilson / Grey: Plates (8)

Bhanu Kapil / [Race Drops for Ban]

Tonya Foster / from “In-Somniloquies” in A Swarm of Bees in High Court

Shane McCrae / from The Queen of Spain

Douglas Kearney / The Irrational

/ The Anti/Ante-Regulative

/ The Blurred/Blurring

/ Buck.

/ Drapetomania: A Praxis, A Syntax

/ AKA:Woke Up This Mornin . . .

Hoa Nguyen / Durian Sonnet

/ Vietnamese Words Have Been Used because of Their Lyrically Descriptive Quality

/ Sentences

/ from The US Military Psychological Operation Recording (Code-Named “Wandering Soul”): Played on the Fronts at Night, Translated

/ Language Points

/ Allotropic (White Phosphorus)

/ Sweetness

/ Vietnamese Proverb

/ Feast of the First Morning of the First Day

John Keene / Nonobjective Poems

Divya Victor / Color: A Sequence of Unbearable Happenings

/ Parent Patterns

Evie Shockley / keep your eye on the

/ that’s a rap (sheet music for alphabet street)

Daniel Borzutzky / Lake Michigan, Scene #12

/ Lake Michigan, Scene #214–215

Sueyeun Juliette Lee / restarting as “incomprehensible (5/6

/ to move from their position  (5/7

/ to build trust with its northern neighbor   (5/8

C. S. Giscombe / Black River, 2

/ Matinee

Vanessa Place / It’s Kind of Fucked Up

/ It’s Fucked Up

Fred Moten / Michael Brown

Farid Matuk / The Magnificat

Lauren Russell / The Wind Is Rising

/ Interstate

Daniel Tiffany / Cadence

/ Cadence

/ Cadence

/ Cadence

Duriel E. Harris / Decorus

Prageeta Sharma / from By Submarine: The Identity Book on Being Alone with Yourself

Jayson Smith / you have to carry something / no lady is sure at night

/ Humans of ______

/ Ars Poetica

/ the poet’s failure to diagnose blk:

Simone White / Comment

Lucas De Lima / from Pinto (“Chick” and Slang for “Penis” in Portuguese)

Erica Hunt / Going Off Script

Tyrone Williams / The Authenticity of Difference as “Curious Thing[s]”: Carl Phillips, Ed Roberson, and Erica Hunt



Zhihui Ang and Lindsay Waters / The Becoming of a Nonelite Critic

Eli Friedlander / Assuming Violence: A Commentary on Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence”

Joseph Massad / The Cultural Work of Recovering Palestine

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