We stand in solidarity with the uprising unfolding across the country following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Jamel Floyd, and those affected by generations of structural violence against Black communities.

We're putting together a list of resources for self-education, mutual aid, and ongoing action in the struggle for racial justice.

The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2017

All Issues
APR 2017 Issue
Critics Page

Barbara Guest, The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest

(Wesleyan University Press, 2008)

This volume, a 600-page-long feast, beautifully showcases why Barbara Guest (1920 – 2006) remains a Guest, singularly and generously—her geist still edging up to and through you, like, right now. A micro-cinepoetic border-crosser, Guest epochalized here is already well-known for her exquisite, exacting ways of connecting and weaving her way through various modernist and postmodern Avant-garde trends, visual and verbal, including objectivist poetry, Abstract Expressionism, language poetry, etc.; and yet reviewing her oeuvre today, this life-long work of incandescent mobile nexus, one would, as I do, feel struck also by a certain conceptual intimacy as well as compositional intricacy of the timbre of her, say, alto-lyrical voice that is almost post-Internet for its psycho-topological capacity to hold open tight such a space of liminal-vectorial alterity (al-to) that could also sound “all-too” lyrical at least to some ears, as we hear her saying:

I am closer to you
Than land and I am in a stranger ocean
Than I wished

in “Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher.”

“You,” the metonym for one another or-and the other freed up there, “alyric” in Charles Bernstein’s coding, become(s) the inter-subject that literalizes the liquid margins, the plasticity of “lyric negation” as Robert Kaufman says about Guest’s “enactment” of Adorno’s critical aesthetics, in which I also hear inactment—a possibility of. In the age of lyrical crisis or critical lyricism, this infra-poetics of intersubjective alterity, its poethical sensibility, remains an inspirational mortar, a motor for differential self-engendering. Guest, of the New York School, will edge you in, so to speak, without closing you in or on you; the hosting guest follows and takes us somewhere higher through the border, lighter even, as she brushes a breath into time, again now, with that stroke of gentle genius. If Frank O’Hara, in comparison, engages the second-person directly, and John Ashbery, more neutro-gesturally through the collective impersonalization of the first, Guest, attuned to both of you, keeps you somewhere between, like a 0.5/1.5/2.5(th) person, as she, each of her pieces, becomes the “shuffling mind” with a mini-propeller, an ear, for a soft ensouled flight somelsewhere you didn’t know you could see, as “the Sky Sinks Slowly Inside the Past”: Of You, My Guest.


Kyoo Lee


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2017

All Issues