Secret Histories

Craig Watson, Author
Craig Watson, Author Burning Deck $14 (75p) ISBN 978-1-886224-83-4
Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 01/01/2007
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The four chapbook-like sequences in this tenth volume from terse avant-garde writer Watson (True News) use chains of short, grim, declaratory phrases to test the limits of civilization, barbarism, political understanding, and-in his own words-""collective responsibility."" ""Fact: survival trumps admin,"" Watson decides; ""Fact: words colonize air."" Full of brackets and omissions-organized on the page to resemble transcriptions from ancient Greek potsherds-the 78 stanzas of Watson's first series, ""Steppe Work,"" imagine migrations, and religious violence, from the Neolithic to the present. The second, ""Pre-Science,"" brings its weighty condemnations to bear on the people (perhaps all of us) who know their nation does wrong, and yet do nothing: ""Let a thousand blanks bloom./ Beggars can't be democrats."" Organized around the months of the year, the third of Watson's series pursues the same theme through lists, chants and quotable sayings: ""history measured progress in suffering/ the firmament rotted daily."" The last (""Loose Canons"") uses twelve-line units and short sentences to complete Watson's studied, always-already-political struggles with the commercialized, flattened language of his money-driven, warlike time. Watson's small verbal units, confident in their corrosive rejection of everyday life, will seem, to their admirers, a perfect blend of Lorine Niedecker with Noam Chomsky; less charitable readers may wonder what Watson brings, at this late date, to his familiar late-modernist left-wing goals.
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