Three Poems from Matt Longabucco

These three pieces are from Matt Longabucco's manuscript of poems written in the voice of Juan Garcia Madero, the 17-year-old Mexican-born narrator of parts 1 and 3 of  Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives. In the novel, Madero's work appears to be lost.

Last August at Bard College, I heard Matt read from this manuscript and invited him to send me some work for xpoetics, and he gaciously agreed. Gracias Matt!

All Shook Up

The troglodyte in leathers,
the cartes de visite in the library display case,
the strange action of balloons in drafty rooms,
the rust on the car’s white paint job
           that makes the machine-nature of the car
           overpower its beast-nature,
the poem that can never be written—
            the one called “Teens on the Beach.”

To share my thoughts with others
in this odd, frankly historical way
is bliss. Four-times-folded pages.
People who don’t know when to shut up,
or who seem insensible to their own slightly
bad odor, fill me with tenderness (after all—
my beastly odor, yesterday),
but it’s a tenderness I must nevertheless
go home and stub out
like a cigarette
in a dish.

Do not go inside police stations or lawyer dens,
do not bathe in public fountains
           till after midnight,
do not snatch up the beautiful children
           in the square to augment the audience
           at your poetry reading or workshop,
do not tell someone they stopped making
           sense an hour ago just as they reach
           the climax of their murderous harangue.

I can take a pounding,
emotionally, and have learnt to grasp
from the spine, like a creature.
I don’t mind fucking up my good looks
with drugs and sleep deprivation
and lack of proper nutrition.
As if I were not already invisible,
like the man in Kierkegaaard
who leaves no footprints.

Five Finger Discount

He evinced a vast multiplicity
as safeguard against ironic twists.
What a mentor, degenerate, and friend.
I his subaltern and pet cricket.
When you steal away what do you steal?
Getting high in the field, close
to the ancient places, those chakras
of the earth, and feeling nothing,
not the surprised plaintive nothing of the tourist,
nor the resolved bemused nothing of the commandant,
but the nothing of a child at a funeral,
or the nothing of a prostitute
whose sadness before the act is the sadness
of freedom, the freedom to arrange sprigs
of blossom in a peaceful room,
a room of almost Swedish calm and proportion,
in the world wrapped around this one,
torus-shaped world,
the very one Socrates stands in the courtyard
visiting, in the Symposium, and even though
dinner’s ready they don’t dare call him in.
I spent the day reaching out to others,
but the slogans stood between us
like a cheval de frise,
and even in the mirror of the puddles
the slogans, and even on the legends
of city buses the slogans,
not the radio ads of the true poet
Robert Desnos but the slogans
of the pitiless cigarette-strewn streets,
the atom bomb for
atom-bomb junkies, look,
there are some things worse than atom-
bombs, there are neighborhoods so bad
even atom-bombs won't drop on them,
because the motherfuckers there
will steal anything and will steal
the atoms right out of an atom bomb,
though what on earth could they want with them
but they do. Then drifting back,
together, to the outskirts, the arm’s-length
of the city, and someone: the maxim:
limit your wanting to what your arm
can reach. Trying to maintain.
I couldn’t eat a thing, thanks.
I’m sick with health, whichever philosopher
proclaimed moisture the element of the world
is the one you’d want to date.
In the park two girlfriends held hands,
so skinny their socks were loose,
heads together shooting out a bolt of laughter,
and an old lady on a bench looking like
“That’s the way it is.” “The world
is for consciousness” says Unamuno,
but the stain of enthusiasm is on it,
like sticking your face under the water
running from the jagged mouth
of the great gaping corrugated drainpipe
where it empties into the trench
and drinking some.

The Hunters

Are watchers alive?
Depends: what do the living talk about?
In the café, in the daytime
or else at night,
I heard that unruly friend of mine—
who loves me, or doesn’t—
discourse, in shredded voice,
upon the nature of a virtue
she felt sure we’d all dismiss as merely quaint,
it being neither insight nor stamina nor political engagement
but trust,
trust even among,
and here her fork quivered in the plausible
and thunder shook the windows
and rain spattered the glass like blood
from a cut jugular,
even or especially among the friends assembled there,
trust that makes time as real as concrete pouring,
trust that leaves all parties to it exposed
like, what else could she say,
like vaginas,
those organs of trust
for which trust is a flowering,
and everyone’s face flushed, like labia,
and drinking drinks wondered what,
in 20 years, would become of the assembly
or more correctly of the bonds that joined them,
bonds that already seemed, this day or night,
as fragile as spiderwebs,
and when finally they all turned to me I realized
I was the one caught,
and when confronted would I reveal
that an act waits caged within me
like a half-crazed wild boar?

Matt Longabucco’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Clock, With+Stand, Painted Bride Quarterly, Conduit, Pleiades, and Washington Square.  He teaches writing and literature in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University, and co-curates the POD reading series in Park Slope.  He lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn.  


Grand Piano Reading at Small Press Traffic

Last Sunday, November 20, 2011, Timken Hall at the California College of Arts was plenty full as eight of the ten Grand Piano authors, including Barrett Watten, Ted Pearson, Tom Mandel, Lyn Hejinian, Kit Robinson, Rae Armantrout, Steve Benson, and Carla Harryman, participated in a group discussion moderated by David Buuck.  Sadly, Bob Perelman and Ron Silliman were not in attendance.

photo: Camille Roy

I walked in a bit late and so missed the framing for the discussion that David provided, but the audience was very much interested in talking about the Occupy movements and asked a number of related questions. Joshua Clover started off with a question that set up a reflection on the social movements of 1968 and the Occupy movements, asking if the current moment was less theoretico-critical. He also pondered the relation between political projects and representation. Barrett responded that the Grand Piano moment was all about non-representational strategies and Kit discussed the very different economic conditions that prevailed in '68 and into the 70s, noting that it was somewhat easier to live with less then than it is now. Carla challenged Kit's premise, saying that some people were indeed worried about money and health care, etc. 

Various people in the audience noted the Occupy movements' absence of celebrity, of someone acting as a representative of the movement, and how this very lack, along with the absence of unifying or singular narratives (as pointed out by Camille Roy) is serving the movement well while confounding the media and others. They don't know how to "read" or respond to the rhizomatic nature of the Occupy movements.

Somewhere along the line, Carla cited Adorno's "Let no one represent you!"

Carla also mentioned Steve McCaffery's 1985 Poetics Journal article (for the special Non-Narrative issue) entitled "And Who Remembers Bobby Sands?" and his exploration of the resulting problematics when resistance is located in one person, one body.

Tom Mandel pointed out the power of "not making demands" as a tactic when the making of demands has continually failed.

The conversation also focused on other differences between "then" and "now," including how in the 70s people were rethinking Marxist constructions of class and the tremendous importance of theoretical literature from Europe and elsewhere finding its way to the US in the form of translations and publications of the work of Barthes, Derrida, Benjamin. Carla noted that on the train to San Francisco State, you would see everyone reading Barthes' S/Z and how incredible it was that so many people were reading the same thing simultaneously. Something was in the air. Barrett said that Badiou and  Rancière were not having as momentous an impact now.

There were questions and discussion about community, collectivity, collaboration.

I asked about the question of form re the Grand Piano, as compared to an earlier multi-authored article ( the 1988 "Aesthetic Tendency and the Politics of Poetry: A Manifesto” from the journal Social Text, co-authored by Silliman, Harryman, Hejinian, Benson, Perelman, and Watten) and the way the Social Text article refrained from demarcating individual "authors," whereas the Grand Piano preserves the individual and includes a larger set of them (and could have included others). I am interested in the practical, formal, and political implications of these choices.

Carla noted that the earlier article was written collectively by people who were in the same physical location and so the process of writing enabled a collectivity; with the Grand Piano project this was physically impractical since now everyone is dispersed, many living in different parts of the country.

Lyn noted the Grand Piano's attempt to be "anti-monolithic (emphasizing parts rather than any totality or whole)," articulating that "the modular character of it (so that order of appearance changed with each volume) should suggest the possibility of other orders and other ways of ordering," enabling remixes. Such a structure, someone said, shows that not everyone was "singing the same song," In this way, no ONE person or volume represented "Language Writing."

Another audience member--Kate ?-- talked about the poetics of the human mic and its usage in the Occupy movements. David Buuck noted the human mic's association with collective speech, with Quakerism, and consensus building. He noted the "poetics of enjambment on the spot" it engenders, and he and Kate highlighted the somatics of taking the words of another into one's body, words that one might not agree with, but that one nevertheless takes into one's body and, rather than merely repeating, projects them onward. Joshua reminded people, though, that Zizek had shown up at Zuccotti Park and projected his "speech" or talk via the human mic and thus corrupted its rhizomatic quality.

Barrett wondered if the human mic was "post-memic"?

Eirik Steinhoff talked about the human mic being like Gertrude Stein's becoming genius, her "at the same time talking and listening." Someone else in the audience described the human mic as "non-mechanical reproduction."

The conversation was lively and engaged and everyone participated though I have not quite captured that here. Memory is a faulty thing and note-taking in the dark a challenge! Any misquotes are my own.

The panel then transitioned to a scripted performance in which each person read various selections from writing that appeared in the ten volumes of The Grand Piano. The performance was orchestrated. There was polyphony, overlap, chorus and solos, and perhaps even improvisation, a reading that formally and performatively marked the individual and collective porosity of the conversation that is the text and the lives of all involved.

You can read my take on the first volume of The Grand Piano entitled "Hive and/or the Dark Body of Friendship: A Response to The Grand Piano Volume 1," at HOW2


Celebrating the life and work of Steve Abbott

Steve Abbott 1943-1992  

Sunday, November 6, 2011 Small Press Traffic continued its Fall 2011 focus on Bay Area poetry history with an event celebrating the life and work of Steve Abbott--writer, editor, hippie, political activist, cartooner, gay father, and all around rabble rouser. Abbott co-edited Poery Flash (from 1979-1984) and produced and edited 4 issues of the influential SOUP magazine. He was the first person to use the term New Narrative to describe the work of Bay Area writers Robert Gluck and Bruce Boone and he organized the historic Left Write conference in 1981. Alysia Abbott, Steve's daughter and muse/accomplice (and now writer herself) shared a moving collection of photos, writings, and anecdotes from Steve's life.

RTM & Alysia Abbott
photo: Camille Roy
The afternoon began with an overview from me as I recounted my accidental encounter with Steve's work, how in the course of researching the Bay Area poetry scene in the 70s-80s, Steve's name came turning up. 

The written record convinces me that Steve Abbott was an integral and important force in the Bay Area writing scene in the late 70s and into the 80s.

In his tenure as the co-editor of Poetry Flash, Steve was not afraid to take on controversy, to provide an arena for engaging in debates about the pressing questions of the time. Steve seems to have had an uncanny ability to read the contemporary even though as Gertrude Stein wrote,

Everybody is contemporary with his period….and the whole business of writing is the question of living in that contemporariness….The thing that is important is that nobody knows what the contemporariness is. In other words, they don’t know where they are going, but they are on their way.

As the editor of SOUP, Steve was on his way and seemed to have the ability to see that it was worth tracking some of the most exciting contemporary writing that was “on its way.” New Narrative found a home in SOUP as did Language Writing, including Bob Perelman's poem "China." (See Jacket Magazine here for Rob Halpern's insightful account of this important context.) Steve produced a number of special issues of Poetry Flash, including those on West Coast Black Writing (September 1979), American Indian Poets of California (October 1980), profiles of Helen Adam and a spotlight on the Grand Piano reading series (February 1981), Gay Writing (March 1981), and a focus on Poets Theater (November 1982).

In addition to running reading series, producing cartoons and journals, parenting, and more, Steve wrote a number of books including: Wrecked Hearts, Stretching the Agape Bra, The Lizard ClubLives of the Poets, Holy Terror, Skinny Trip to a Far Place, and others. My favorite is the 1989 View Askew: Postmodern Investigations, a book that collects Steve's essays from The San Francisco Sentinel, The Advocate, Mirage, and elsewhere.  In it, Steve ruminates about life in the US, in the Bay Area, from the 70s and into the 80s; the book “documents the blurring of boundaries I’ve seen since moving to San Francisco in 1973” (Preface). It consists of three sections: Sexual Panic and the Arts, Mixed Messages in Daily Life, and Alternative Lives; and an epilogue about AIDS and the future entitled “Will We Survive the 80s?” The book also discusses performance art, Barbie dolls, phone sex, Stonestown, Kyoto condoms, commercialism (in an article in which he mentions angry protesters bombing the Bank of America (75)  I might add!); he writes about such various artists and writers as Robert Arneson, Steve Benson, Julian Schnabel, Bob Kaufman, Judy Grahn, Diamanda Galas, Odilon Redon, and New Narrative writers Bob Gluck, Bruce Boone, and also Dennis Cooper and Kathy Acker. I highly recommend it.

Steve at the Jardins des Plantes 1991

The question--will we survive the 80s?--was an urgent one. AIDS was devastating the gay community and the Bay Area generally. While Tom Clark and Ed Dorn created the "AIDS Awards for Poetic Idiocy" in the 1980s and "awarded," or rather, targeted Steve Abbott with one of these, Abbott in his epilogue in View Askew wrote:

To fight AIDS and the conditions that threaten us we need more than scientific research, more than money, more than leadership. We need to rethink America's spiritual, political, social and cultural systems at the most fundamental root level. How do we use power? How do we use language? It is clear that what we are doing now--as bosses and workers, as men and women, as gays and straights, as whites and nonwhites--is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth's ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that today we can no longer afford to see anything--as a separate issue needing a separate cultural, political or spiritual agenda (173-74).

There's more to say about Steve and there was lots more said on Sunday. Kevin Killian read selections from Steve's work and Bruce Boone and Bob Gluck (via a letter read by Alsysia) shared some writing about Steve. Bruce noted Steve's childlike and vulnerable qualities, his nagging, mentioning how Steve introduced Bruce to George Bataille, a writer who would become very important both to Bob Gluck and Bruce. Bob noted that Lives of the Poets is his favorite of Steve's books, one that he and Bruce published in 1987 as part of their Black Star Series. Bob wrote that "...more than any of us, Steve was the exemplary New Narratrive writer, maybe because his Buddhism allowed him to empty without violence both fiction and lived experience."

It was a lovely afternoon with a standing room only crowd and Alysia Abbott held the crowd with her photos and stories of Steve's amazing life, a life that Alysia was made an integral part of--her work appeared in SOUP, she was taken to the One World Poetry Festival in Amsterdam and hung out with Richard Brautigan and had tea with William Burroughs. And when Steve was very sick with AIDS, Alysia returned from a life in Paris to take care of Steve until he died at the Hartford Street Zen Center.

I eagerly await the publication of Alysia Abbott's memoir Fairyland. Here's an excerpt she has generously shared with us.


My father was a rich man in Paris. In San Francisco we skimped and saved. No piece of furniture was bought new, everything found at garage sales or at a markdown somewhere, as were his clothes. But in Paris my father was loose with his Francs, buying me any blouse or dress that caught my fancy. “I like to see you in nice clothes,” he’d tell me as I posed and turned in front of the shop mirrors. We went out every night and he barely looked at the check before spreading his money like monopoly money across the tabletop.

And what he didn’t spend that week of his visit, he put in an envelope and handed to me before taking a cab to catch his flight home. There was a feeling that We’re in Paris. This world is not our world. This is not real money. Why worry? Let’s let the money go.

We met for a coffee at Place d’Abbesses in Montmartre his first afternoon in the city. I explained to him how it was cheaper to take a coffee at the bar than to sit at a table. I still was tight with money, still used to being a student. But he wanted to sit. His legs were tired. He was easily tired that trip. So we sat outside on the terrace. The summer sun was shining so every other seat on the terrace was taken. The cobblestone streets were stacked with parked motos, the vespas the young Parisians liked to drive, their high-pitched engines echoing through the narrow alleys and hills. We sat at Café d’Abbesses across from a blinking merry-go-round. The trees were in bloom. The air warmed me and I felt good.

Our plan was to walk up to Sacré-Coeur but Dad didn’t know if he was up for the hills and many flights of stairs. “It’s not far from here,” I said splitting a cube of sugar for my espresso. He sat tapping the saucer of his café crème with his narrow cigarette stained fingers.

“That’s okay,” he said.

I suggested we go to Musée d’Orsay, my favorite Paris museum the next day. That semester I’d studied 19th Century history and the realists Flaubert and Balzac. I enjoyed seeing the art of that period against the literary and historical context I now knew so well.

“That’s okay,” he said.

He’d already seen Musée d’Orsay. Just as he’d already seen Notre Dame and Musée Picasso and Place des Vosges and everywhere else I suggested we visit.

“I’ve seen them all,” he said then, after a pause added, “I’m here to see you.”

He spoke his words calmly as he sipped on his café crème. And for a moment I felt uncomfortable just as many times in my life, my father’s love left me feeling uncomfortable. The way, at thirteen, I reacted to him grinning at me with big eyes from across the dinner table: “What are you smiling at?” And he responded, “I’m just amazed that I’ve raised this beautiful young woman.”

His love surprised me. It could be jarring, because it always seemed to spring from nowhere, and certainly seemed to have no relationship to my actions. It was as though he loved me just for sitting there in front of him, before his eyes and returning his gaze, listening to him and speaking.

This was how he looked at me that day at the cafe. It was too easy.   (Alysia Abbott)

Bruce Boone
photo: Camille Roy
Kevin Killian
photo: Camille Roy

Alysia Abbott’s writing can be found at Time Out, Salon, and Babble and in essays about her relationship with Steve Abbott on Atlantic.com and in two anthologies: Out of the Ordinary: Essays on Growing up with Lesbian, Gay and Transgendered Parents, St. Martin’s Press (2000) and Only Child, Random House (2006). Abbott also maintains a web site about Steve here.

Thanks to Alysia Abbott, Kevin Killian, Bruce Boone, Bob Gluck, Jim Brashear for technical assistance, Kush, Samantha Giles of Small Press Traffic, and to all who came out for this event.

Stay-Tuned: Thirty years after the LeftWrite Conference: December 4th Kaplan Harris will talk with LeftWrite Conference organizers, Bruce Boone and Robert Glück to revisit some of the motivations, fractures and legacies of this seminal moment in Bay Area History.


Judith Goldman and Brandon Brown

Friday night at the Green Arcade in San Francisco Krupskaya Books celebrated the publication of two new books: Judith Goldman's l.b.; or, catenaries and Brandon Brown's The Poems of Gaius Valerious Catullus. I missed it! However, I have the books and eagerly await time to dive into them. They are hefty tomes; Brown's book has 189 pages and Goldman's 212. They will make for winter reading.

In the meantime, here are some selections from each book, including what others have said about each.

First up, Judith Goldman:

Stop questioning my average

Like I can't even represent myself

Like jury duty I  never ejaculate anti-socially

Judged by a jury of my fears

my congress in line-item defeated

my forest floor porn twitches


thinks it's raising the dead

but Sclerical fidelity cannot be

reduced to facts

facts is timely and seems to imply
You can get the same effects

calls prosecutor
to its defense,

Are you my god

Whereas conventions down-boy
The tally, they argue

Paradise can be entered from the other side

Supposedly, Nobody tries that hard        (106)

General Scholium: "In the Beginning"

In the beginning was the worm, long unstymied stomach

In the begged were the warm stigmata whittled in the stick
Innocently wagging a carrot
Intensive care bigged the hole, stuckOw, ow, my hamstring!
Unstringed, to crawl I chug, dressed up as

jocund company

I wandered lonely as a clod

These condensations slung

O'er my shoulder

We the pebble, formidable, soldier,
                                              than onion's perfect domino
We connote wayfare to the wayfarer
We the altar-wafer leaving
                                                       no waifish soul unaltered
We the peephole look through ourselves securely to instablish there's just-us
We the peeping chick assure you how wee the peehole

By God! your bigotry's big!

This one goes out to the precedent
Got its claws in you

Likewse my, my,  my

My cavalry got bogged down, the critters
Ain't fending for me no more

Send reinforcements  but
don't last--

ounce-of-humanity yourself

Lost the manual, managed to do it
Manually, de
e the manhole's unmanning
yes, yerr honor
yerr grave spit on me
sharing its curse, spitty

If the case sweats to serve as precedent

All systems go, but

Where does that get you?

A faint crackle of paper still swells the ranks

The same glint sparkles Out the blue

tossing its head in a sprightly dance

Flashing upon my inward I (you)

Pensive, push the cork in--

O ham it, my climate Climbs

Chugging uphill to flow into its coffers

Dusk me into this stricken empyrean else I
Frag this figment, fuck it, don't
Kindly my kinlessness, I'm not kindling
Mankind, I'm just ham with ante upped
I wear my strong suit and Online accreditation
I stick to stick figures with my sticky back
Decalcked, but lacking off, keep onned

What do you mean exactly?





Thank you. I know my way out. [bumps head]

If only I were the lacy edge of a fried egg


Slap it

/Then close the wicket                (87-89)

Craig Dworkin on Goldman's l.b.

The concatenated series of poems in Judith Goldman's l.b. chart the narratives formed by texts of uniform density hanging freely from two fixed readings not in the same semantic line. On the one hand, the book dramatizes language under the regimes of contemporary communication--the protocols and phatics of privatized and publicly traded language--with all the false and inescapable sociality of networked media and commercial memoranda. On the other hand, the motivated material play of the signifier points to the paths of greatest resistance: chance, ludic laughter, and the recalcitrant residium of the body.

At the level of composition, l.b. is also a kind of catena patrum: a series of extracts from earlier writings, forming a commentary on some portion of scripture. Goldman's finely sutured microcollage of forms and phrases moves from Aristotle to Andy Warhol, Kathy Acker to William Wordsworth, Abu Ghraib  to Thomas Wyatt. Where the traditional catena is also a chronological series of extracts to prove the existence of a continuous tradition on some point of doctrine, here the discrepant result is a more thoroughly, honestly, chronic text: not the false time of doctrine and tradition, but something more true to its own time, and to linguistic time itself.

From Brandon Brown:

This is from the section entitled "Sparrow":


Catullus is a poet with no job, so hoards mucho otium, makes it obvious there is the tablets: leisure, convening (so delicious!), writing verses about writing verses with his phallus on the door of a bar, etc. Ludic numbers that make young Victorian Latin students blush and not from too much wine. Not incensed, I do sense discrepancy about the sleep and the quiet and the limitlessness of the time Catullus has to hang with Licinus, trading licks (both verse-ish and tongue-ish.) If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I'm probably at work. Bummer patrol! Catullus in bed, his members post-poesy, half-dead like writing in a book. Dolors make him sweat, but it's for dollars I perspire and expire. No bombs drop on my head except incendiary malinheritance. Beware the bombs brought on by gum disease: too much wine, not enough otium. Beware of do. Beware of poor attendance at the play. (51)

an excerpt from 65

The sixty-fifth poem in the corpus of Catullus is addressed to his friend Hortalus.

The poem is in the vocative and is usually read as essentially epistolary, a letter to accompany a translation that Catullus has made of a poem by Callimachus. This work of translation has been incredibly difficult, because there is a crisis in the life of Catullus that has made prosody frustrating.

The crisis in the life of Catullus is that his brother is lying on the beach dead in Troy and a wave licks his little pale foot.

The death of this brother has made it impossible for him to "produce the sweet fruit of the Muses." As if prosody were a redemptive tactic against the total loss effected by death.

I find it interesting that Catullus, who remains associated with the anachronistic but persistent mode of the lyric, constructs a practice almost always including appropriation. Translation, and certainly as Catullus himself practices it, is an artwork of appropriation. And yet much of contemporary translation as much as contemporary works of appropriation purport to cancel the somatic vehicle for lyric material.

That is, the conventional picture of translation, in which the translator is invisible, which excludes her body from the scene of translation, does not suggest a space in which the translator's desire--or grief--can find any entry into the imporous mimetic activity they understand as "translation." (93)

The back of Brandon's book includes this unattributed piece:

Ever since the poems of Catullus were discovered in a wine cask in Verona in the 13th Century,  translators have returned to them over and over, insisting on their continued relevance. These troubling poems have scandalized and delighted generations of readers in translation, as they apparently scandalized and perhaps delighted the literary coterie surrounding Catullus in pre-revolutionary Rome. Brandon Brown's The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus is a translation in which the decadent excesses of ascending Roman hegemony meet the decadent excesses of collapsing American domination. The meeting is staged as half confrontation, half party. And this confrontation/party monster goes down in the overdetermined and hyper-privileged site of translation: the translator's body. Instead of reduplicating what Lawrence Venuti calls the "translator's invisibility," Brown is all too visible, exposing himself in various costumes: abject hero, demonic oaf, pathetic provocateur, swaggy braggart. These poems exploit the specificity of times and places to their maximal debasement, so the Gods of ancient Rome can't be distinguished from Brad Pitt watching Avatar, finally. And such spectacular cultural force doesn't just live in the sky, but irrupts into this sustained act of interpretive reading. 'Imagine if Brad Pitt came to your wedding. No, seriously.' Dead serious and impossibly fraught, Catullus's poems lurch in the hallways of the social networks in which we live. The time just before the machines become part of our bodies. Dazzling and devastated.