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My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan Poetry) [Hardcover]

By Jack Spicer (Contributor), Peter Gizzi (Editor) & Kevin Killian (Editor)
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Item description for My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan Poetry) by Jack Spicer, Peter Gizzi & Kevin Killian...

Presents a collection of poems taken from a variety of the author's books along with poems published for the first time.

Publishers Description
In 1965, when the poet Jack Spicer died at the age of forty, he left behind a trunkful of papers and manuscripts and a few copies of the seven small books he had seen to press. A West Coast poet, his influence spanned the national literary scene of the 1950s and '60s, though in many ways Spicer's innovative writing ran counter to that of his contemporaries in the New York School and the West Coast Beat movement. Now, more than forty years later, Spicer's voice is more compelling, insistent, and timely than ever. During his short but prolific life, Spicer troubled the concepts of translation, voice, and the act of poetic composition itself. My Vocabulary Did This to Me is a landmark publication of this essential poet's life work, and includes poems that have become increasingly hard to find and many published here for the first time.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wesleyan
Pages   465
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 6.25" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   1.58 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 2008
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819568872  
ISBN13  9780819568878  

Availability  2 units.
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More About Jack Spicer, Peter Gizzi & Kevin Killian

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! JACK SPICER (1925 1965) published books including After Lorca (1957), Billy the Kid (1959), and The Holy Grail (1962). PETER GIZZI is a poet and author of numerous books, including The Outernationale (2007), who lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts. KEVIN KILLIAN is a poet, novelist, critic, and playwright living in San Francisco."

Jack Spicer has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Wesleyan Poetry

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Anthologies
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan Poetry)?

Jack Spicer Joins the Canon  Apr 21, 2009
I am just finishing the "must read" poetry volume of the year, "My Vocabulary Did this To Me", an anticipated republication of the poems by the late Jack Spicer, edited by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian, and I have to admit that Spicer's writing has me momentarily forgetting my prejudice against poems about poetry and poets and allowing myself to be knocked by the author's third-rail wit. A singular figure, who didn't fit in with the Beats, the New York School, nor the San Francisco Renaissance, Spicer's poems were a set of marginalia at the edges of the principle discussion as to what poetry was and ought to be, and as becomes clear as we read, his counter assertions, his asides, his declarations had more self contained clarity and vision than much of the stuff he looked askance at.

Interrogation of received notions was his on going theme, and `though the practice of making literary practice the unifying metaphor in a body of work tends to seal off poetry from an readership that could benefit from a skewed viewpoint--unlocking a door only to find another locked door, or a brick wall, ceases to be amusing once one begins to read poets for things other than status--Spicer rather positions the whole profession and the art as an item among a range of other activities individuals take on to make their daily life cohere with a faint purpose they might feel welling inside them. Spicer, in matters of money, sexuality, poetry, religion zeros on the neatly paired arrangements our language system indexes our hairiest ideas with and sniffs a rat when the description opts for the easily deployed adjectives, similes and conclusions that make the hours go faster.

Thing Language

By Jack Spicer

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

There is reservedly antagonistic undercurrent to Spicer's work, the subtle and ironic derision of the language arts that, as he sees them practiced, is locked up in matters of petty matters of status, property, the ownership of ideas, the expansion of respective egos that mistake their basic cleverness for genius. The world, the external and physical realm that one cannot know but only describe with terms that continually need to be resuscitated, is, as we know, something else altogether that hasn't the need for elaborate vocabularies that compare Nature and Reality with everything a poet can get his or her hands on. What this proves, Spicer thinks (it seems to me, in any event) is that we know nothing of the material we try to distill in verse; even our language is parted out from other dialogues.

The Sporting Life

By Jack Spicer

The trouble with comparing a poet with a radio is that radios
don't develop scar-tissue. The tubes burn out, or with a
transistor, which most souls are, the battery or diagram
burns out replacable or not replacable, but not like that
punchdrunk fighter in a bar. The poet
Takes too many messages. The right to the ear that floored him
in New Jersey. The right to say that he stood six rounds with
a champion.

Then they sell beer or go on sporting commissions, or, if the
scar tissue is too heavy, demonstrate in a bar where the
invisible champions might not have hit him. Too many of
The poet is a radio. The poet is a liar. The poet is a
counterpunching radio.
And those messages (God would not damn them) do not even
know they are champions.

Spicer is an interesting poet on several levels, all of them deep and rich with deposits that reward an earnest dig. He is , I think, on a par with Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams with the interest in grilling the elaborative infrastructure of how we draw or are drawn to specialized conclusions with the use of metaphor, and it is to his particular brilliance as a lyric poet, comparable to Frank O'Hara (a poet Spicer declared he didn't care for, with O'Hara thinking much the same in kind) that the contradictions, competing desires and unexpected conundrums of investigating one's verbal stream are made comprehensible to the senses, a joy to the ear. No one, really no one wrote as distinctly as the long obscure Spicer did, and editors Gizzi, Killian and publisher Wesleyan Press are to be thanked for restoring a major American voice to our shared canon.

The Murderer of Modernism  Dec 22, 2008
In the decades following WWII, a tremendous amount of complex, appealing, outward-facing, socially engaged and universally relevant poetry was written in the United States by poets who more or less all knew each other, wrote about each other, and went to the same parties. Ferlingetti published Allen Ginsberg, who staged a happening at the funeral of Frank O'Hara, who was a close friend of John Ashberry, who promoted the books of Kenneth Koch, and so on. Together, these poets' work influenced everything from political speeches to hip-hop, and perhaps more importantly, their eclectic, immediate, deeply personal, free-spirited outpourings drowned out the recondite, referential, fascist, formalist modernism exemplified by Eliot and Pound, and cured American poetry of the disease that continued to plague our architecture and our prose. (Notice there's no "postmodernism" in poetry--"Howl" made it irrelevant.)

Jack Spicer is the self-selected black sheep of the group. His poems are stubbornly self-reflexive: they are about poetry and poets, and the struggle to the death between them. He likes to quote Pound. He disses New York. He writes "A band of faggots. . .cannot be built into a log-cabin in which all Western Civilization can cower." (Take THAT Ginsberg and O'Hara.) He talks about being in hell. He sees ghosts.

In his pity, privacy, and focus on writers and death, he reminds me of Roberto Bolano and David Markson. But there is also an energy, a wealth of invention, and a darn human likeability to his work that. . . well, maybe there was something in the air in mid-twentieth century America, which we can all breathe even now by reading these poems. "Love makes the discovery wisdom abandons." Ahh--joy. "Two loves I had, one rang a bell/connected on both sides with hell." Who of us hasn't been there? And as for modernism--"Love ate the red wheelbarrow." Yes again. Thank the ghosts. Read this and breathe.
indispensable new edition  Dec 5, 2008
This gorgeous new collection is superbly presented and edited, and contains a great deal of previously unpublished material, as well as the contents of both "The Collected Books" and "One Night Stands." An outstanding edition of an astonishing poet, whose importance is increasingly coming to be recognized.

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