cover image The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader

The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader

Madeline Gins, edited by Lucy Ives. Siglio, $28 (328p) ISBN 978-1-938221-24-8

This wide-ranging, energetic anthology of poetry and experimental fiction, with an authoritative introduction by Ives (Loudermilk) shows how Gins (1941–2014) explored the possibilities of literary form and its relationship to content. Gins published more than a dozen books, and also worked extensively as an architect and visual artist. These disciplines are exhilaratingly expressed in her poetry, formed by unusual typefaces and lists. Some poems look handwritten and smudged and/or crossed out, as Gins works with the look and sounds of words. Also included are two early essays, lengthy excerpts from two other books, and her experimental novel cum artist’s book, Word Rain (1969), which employs a sensual approach to language and the confines of the page (“I massage geometry with a scented oil. The maintenance of lips. The battles of containers. I speak in the midst of a sifted silence”). Gins’s playfulness emerges in unattributed quotes from modernist literature (Beckett, Woolf) along with graphic design elements, such as a thumb protruding from the side of a page. At one point, Gins writes, “Words are moving over me.” A long section of imperatives—by turns ominous, hilarious, trivial—appears in all caps separated by white space. Stimulating and consistently surprising, this is a treat for those interested in interdisciplinary artists such as John Cage. (Apr.)