Toscano's book-length poem Partisans (O Books, 1999) has been quietly acquiring a reputation as a brilliant intervention on the order of George Oppen's Of Being Numerous, reimagining social relations through an activating grammatical conceit. The Disparities is actually Toscano's first book, though published second (by Green Integer, a press that grew out of Los Angeles's Sun & Moon). Toscano here variously conceives of the poem as "Premise" ("Premise No. 1," "Premise No. 2," etc.), "Circular" and "Portrait," developing several of each and working through a number of formal and tonal variations: "Retort. Image. Urge. Stone—cracks moon, malaise " becomes "I'm a doormat talking as if I'm a kingpin." But when the book arrives at the slowed-down Partisans-style couplets and isolated one-word lines of "non-confidential memos," the long poem with which this book ends, those modes come into play simultaneously and purposefully: "disjunctures/ constituted/ are widely/ censored/ */ but tell them you want/ motive/ */ unmodestly/ attached/ */ circulate/ */ word freight." Toscano, currently based in Brooklyn and working at New York's Labor Institute, has created an idiom capacious enough to critique identity politics, global capital and the spectacle of the self's autovalorization, without getting stuck in the ruts they leave. Readers frustrated by the limitations of first-person testimony on the one hand, and the dream of auto-chthonic self-realization on the other, will find Toscano's work exhilarating. (Mar.)
Forecast:While Partisans has remained more or less in samizdat circulation, Toscano has two more books due in the fall, Platform, from Atelos press, and a project with the San Francisco publishing collective Krupskaya. Look for round-up reviews of Toscano's four books in national literary journals, followed by the beginnings of academic attention.
Release date: 04/01/2002