Saturday, November 01, 2008


For the past few months I've been following John Latta's exquisite postings at his blog Isola di Rifiuti. Latta is a powerful poet — but he is one that is slow to publish, unencumbered by the drive to fill out a CV and pander to the market forces he carefully critiques. His first book, Rubbing Torsos, was published by Ithaca House some thirty years ago, in 1979. The next book to appear was Breeze in 2003.

Since then his poetic production appears primarily through his blog, poems accompanied by visual images and reading notes. Each posting makes for a richly sedimented, wonderfully disorienting conjunction of texts. The poems that appear in most of the postings are part of an ongoing series called The Everyday — a series that seems to emerge from the close attention Latta's given to Michel de Certeau's notion of the everyday, a walking through the everyday that allows him to absorb the cultural materials of the everyday. Latta's poems, as textual instantiations of everyday life, are a moving enactment of de Certeau's concept: "Everyday life invents itself by poaching in countless ways on the property of others." We find this poaching in Latta's poems, each poem a mound of fragments addressing the spaces of relation that bind the otherwise disparate fragments of a civilization together.

The lyrical force of the poem embedded in Latta's October 30, 2008 posting is especially powerful:
Tan fuertemeintre llorando, I weep
At vainglory deservingly sack’d, at
Fierce antiquity’s runt rehearsal, you
America, every slick’d back hair
In place, strutting impeccably down
Through the accumulated nausea of
Century of misdeeds, poor actor,
Ya se parte de sus
unhand’d by history, un-
Marvell’d, rabid, corrupt, wonder-mongering,
Gluttonous, crowd-badgering, and ill.
This poem, the sixty-seventh in the series, rolls with an energy commensurate to the anticipation and anxiety most of us must be feeling as we draw closer to election day, the zero hour that promises to determine the cultural and socio-economic texture of an already turbulent century.

With only two books in the world, Latta's work hasn't yet received the critical attention it deserves. But if we follow the complex of poems, reading notes, observations and images posted to his blog we see an approach to textual production and the poem that reaches beyond the limitations of the book or indeed any of the material and generic constraints that continue to legislate how work is received and read in the world.