:: Buzzwords Archive: December 2015. Click here for the latest posts.

make magic (published 28/12/2015)

Image: Gordon Lish by Bill Hayward, badBehavior, rizzoli, 2000

3:AM’s David Winters interviews the legendary Gordon Lish for Critical Quarterly:

If we go back to Beckett, or to various bits by Thomas Bernhard, these examples seem to represent an exception. One wants to find the new. And, in finding it, do everything one can to fight for it. There was a time when I was far more bellicose than I am now. I loved getting on panels and saying, ‘Well, piss on you all: if you haven’t read a Raymond Carver story, you haven’t read the best thing in short fiction’. They’d say, ‘Raymond who? Raymond what?’ Now, to be sure, I wrote those stories. But they dismissed Carver. They only came around to him when he was officially approved, by the New York Times and so on. No one’s approving Jason Schwartz, I can assure you. And we know why. A Carver story is teachable. You can put it in front of a class of high school kids, and they’ll get it. Not so with Schwartz. He presents certain problems. These arise doubtless out of his being smarter, and being concerned with telling the truth – his truth, uniquely.

I want people who can make magic. That’s what the job at hand is. To take the elements of the language, to take these tarnished and exhausted entities, and to cause them to move in a way they’ve never moved otherwise. To imbue them with movement through the particular imposition of one’s will, one’s desire. To say, ‘Can I make it do that? Can I make it do that?’ When I’m reading, I want to be swept away; I want to feel that I have seen what I would otherwise never have seen. I want to be made to say, ‘I must change my life’. The New Yorker recently ran a really vicious piece about my classes, distorting my idea of ‘seduction’. Needless to say, I wasn’t talking about sex. What I meant was that art should lead people away from being-in-the-world by conventional means.

Read the full interview here.

Top Reads of 2015: Steven J. Fowler (published 13/12/2015)



Tom Jenks, Spruce (Blarts Books)

One of most overlooked poets in the UK, doing the work conceptualism should be doing, getting to the heart of uniquely British ennui through splicing methodology and jet black humour.

Sandeep Parmar, Eidolon (Shearsman Books) 

High modernism powerfully maintained and redeployed by one of the most interesting poets crossing the American / UK scene.


Tom Chivers, Dark Islands (Test Centre)

One of the clearest voices in British poetry in his finest work to date, beautiful rendered, written and designed.


Emma Hammond, The Story of No (Penned in the Margins)

Powerful for it’s immediacy, incredibly sophisticated for it’s lack of pretension in the face of profoundly personal poetry. Amazing book.


Christodoulos Makris, The Architecture of Chance (wurm press) 

This is the future of a poetry which reflects our world of language without dispensing with the expressionistic skill of interpreting that language. Found text lies with lyrical poetry, a thorough achievement to balance them to such effect.

Peter Jaeger, A Field Guide to Lost Things (If P Then Q press)

Clever, resonant and profound, as all of Peter Jaeger’s works are, a fine example of the possibilities of contextual, process-orientated thinking getting to the heart of contemporary poetry.

servantdroneBruno Neiva & Paul Hawkins, Servant Drone (Knives forks and spoons press) 

Brilliant collaborative poetry collection (of which there are far too few) taking on a necessary issue in necessarily disjunctive ways.

Michael Thomas Taren, Eunuchs (Ugly Duckling Presse) 

Best possible example of what is possible in contemporary American poetics of my generation. Excessive, authentic, ambitious.


Rebecca Perry, Beauty/Beauty (Bloodaxe Books) 

Reflective and observational in the most well conceived way, a clear poetic experience as a book, it accumulates and resonates as a collection.

Lee Harwood, The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon Press) 

The last work by one of the most interesting poets in the English language in the latter half of the 20th century, a typically beautiful book.