Cable Factory 20

Lytle Shaw, Author Atelos $12.95 (103p) ISBN 978-1-891190-05-6
Shaw's book-length poem--part faux-documentary, part pastoral meditation on landscapes both mental and post-industrial, and also something of a novel--spins centrifugally from an investigation of the conceptual artist Robert Smithson, best known for his Spiral Jetty, an ""earthwork"" that extends into Utah's Great Salt Lake. Cable Factory 20 is an oblique homage to the artist and his work, imaginatively reconstructing Smithson's idiosyncratic topics, methods of site-specific research (from 20 vantage points) and the post-humanist, near ascetic set of values he took into artistic creation. In Shaw's Bay Area, the debris of industry forces the attentive speaker to alter his perceptions of time and space--matching the city-in-history's non-anthropomorphic scale: ""Each city is actually a twin/ with the city of `Environs,' where/ motion propels into a phrase/ universe whose quality of surrounding / allows suffixes, abrasion./ And from here, the twin evils:/ (disbelief in substance,/ the body as final container)/ appear as so many programmatic/ whiffs."" The book's pages become archeological sites unto themselves; each is bordered with Smithson-related images purposefully degraded via repeated photocopying, and repeating in patterns that emphasize the historical ""trace"" that corrupts as it transforms and decays. Developing most conspicuously the careful rhythms of Barrett Watten and Lyn Hejinian, Shaw nonetheless occasionally takes on more familiar tones, breaking in as a ""narrator"" with pellucid facts and cryptic commentary as he finds things and discards them, makes time to spend and time to lose, has fortuitous encounters, unforeseen set-backs, and so on. The cumulative effect has all the essential essences of noir, but stripped of plot and narrative--like meeting Welles' ""third man"" over and over again. This is one of the most intriguing books of the new year, and certainly a terrific first book. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
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