Noah Eli Gordon is the author of seven books, including The Source (Futurepoem, 2011), and Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007), which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and subsequently chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award. Gordon is the co-publisher of Letter Machine Editions, and an Assistant Professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming from numerous anthologies, including Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, 2nd Edition (W.W. Norton, 2012), A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press, 2011), Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Northwestern University Press, 2011), and Poets on Teaching (University of Iowa Press, 2010).
Part theoretical treatise on the ethics of origination, part assemblage-art investigation of the dissemination of public knowledge, THE SOURCE is a book-length conceptual essay, a polemic in defense of constrained bibliomancy and ambient research as authentic means to illuminate truth in all its messy vectors.
“The prolific Gordon here takes his cues from Ashbery–who picked this collection for the National Poetry Series–but also from poets ranging from Rilke to Peter Gizzi. In alternating pages of prose and spare verse lines, he plays freely in the realm between theory and lyric: “Sculpture seeks articulation of the air around it. Thus, a heron thrusting overhead mutes modernism.” Each of the 50 one-paragraph prose poems starts with a proposition and then attempts to both follow through on its initial lunge and also force the reader off the most obvious of trails of thought, usually by tossing in a few surprises: an Ajax bottle, Alice Neel, a “dab of wisteria” and a strip of duct tape make appearances in two lines of one poem. Gordon closes each poem with an artfully clumsy rhyming couplet–”One packs in what one can, as the real point of art is the subtle reiteration of the is, ain’t it? The way I see it, we’re all partially tainted”–alternately lending irony and vulnerability. While this is a difficult book steeped in canonical and postmodern poetic traditions–meaning it won’t appeal to everyone–it’s packed with thrills and discoveries that might engender some discussion.”
Such a new century deserves the sexual, the scientific, and the utterly secular pleasure of building a poem with the tectonics of a great bridge. So little pathos and so many paths. Broken like the heteronyms of Pessoa, but filled with multiple lives, Noah Eli Gordon teases all false monumentality yet reserves its rights to memory. To call it witty or wild isn’t witty or wild enough and leaves out the cavalier, the paideia, and structural surge. He has the restless tones and narrative density of a septet. His work itself glows green with surprises. He is a painter, of course.
In Figures for a Darkroom Voice the rhetorical twisting of Noah Eli Gordon’s abstractions meld with the ominous narratives of Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s fragments, turning Wallace Steven’s notion of a supreme fiction toward a supreme friction, one where the work of these two poets is fused into a voice as singular as it is sinister. Imagine a gallery in which Cornell boxes talk back, a Maya Deren film in which the audience dissolves into projector light, a Philip Glass composition played exclusively on medieval weaponry, such are the compelling results of this collaborative work. Here, the slippage and disruptions of textually investigative work collides with the mind-expanding project of conjuring paradox, while never quite leaving linearity behind. When these poets write, “I am trying to draw you a simple picture of explanation,” one realizes the monumental nature of such a task. And this task is made more complex, and ultimately more rewarding, by the inclusion of Noah Saterstrom’s dynamic images.
It was the Russian Formalist critics who first noted that one of the historic roles of art – and one of art’s inexorable drivers toward incessant, ongoing change – is to incorporate new aspects of society into the art itself. Without which any genre would very quickly lose much of its connectedness with the life of the community from which it springs. Inbox is exactly what its title suggests, a work of art that includes email received by the author, albeit written entirely by his correspondents, over a period of time. Sociologically,Inbox is fascinating. It presents the highest order of conceptual poetics just by being itself.
Noah Eli Gordon is a master of the shift between an epigrammatic and aphoristic line. Each utterance is a glance that implodes rhetorical strategies so spectacularly that the spray of intelligence that lingers in this reader’s mind is not much different from a cooling shower from an illegally opened fire hydrant. Witty, vivid, and very, very vital, Gordon has entered a higher frequency.
Noah Eli Gordon can spin, scratch, sample, and dub to mix a sound all his own. The Frequencies tunes in desire, poetry, static, and laughter–all the while broadcasting with the intensity and joy of first things. It’s dope.