cover image New Directions Poetry Pamphlets 1–4

New Directions Poetry Pamphlets 1–4

Lydia Davis, Eliot Weinberger, Bernadette Mayer, Susan Howe, Sylvia Legris. New Directions, $35 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2063-7

New Directions, vanguard of experimental writing since its inception in 1936, is returning to an old form with a series of chapbooks (also published in this single volume) reminiscent of its 1940s series “Poet of the Month” and “Poets of the Year.” This set of four independent works begins with Two American Scenes, a two-part pamphlet that includes Davis’s Our Village and Weinberger’s A Journey on the Colorado River. Both take found texts from the 19th century and appropriate them into long, essayistic poems in the voices of rural Americans and explorers. Next comes Mayer’s The Helens of Troy, NY, a profile in verse of “all the women named Helen” in Troy, NY: “if you don’t marry me/ I’ll jump off the green island bridge/ he was 17, she was 15/ she had the best legs in troy.” Howe’s Sorting Facts is a long essay in 19 parts centered on the cinema of Chris Marker: “I am an American poet writing in the English language...I work in the poetic documentary form, but didn’t realize it until I tried to find a way to write an essay about two films by Chris Marker.” Finally, there is Legris’s Pneumatic Antiphonal, a verse-exploration of the biology of birds and birdsong, in all its “Rapid hovering exhalations.” Leave it to New Directions to bring the experimental chapbook to the mainstream of poetry publication. (Apr.)