by The Last Books

The Letters of Douglas Oliver and J. H. Prynne
Joe Luna (ed.)
The Last Books - 25.00€ -

Douglas Oliver (1937–2000) and J. H. Prynne (b. 1936) are two of the most original and ambitious poets of the contemporary era. Eschewing the conservativism of mainstream postwar British verse and embracing influences from America and Europe, each developed their craft through continuous correspondence and exchange as part of the febrile scene of poetical community and contestation that emerged in Cambridge in the 1960s. Their works over the following decades exhibit frequent shifts in form and style, from Prynne’s radical transformation and dispersal of the lyric tradition to Oliver’s adaptation of dream visions and medieval-inspired verse satires.

Their letters are a record of both the high stakes and playful experiments that constitute the writing lives of two singular poets determined not just to engage with modern political and social life during decades of crisis and upheaval, but to contribute through the circulation and publication of poetry to what Oliver calls “a community of political ethic.” Over the course of more than thirty years of friendship and mutual appreciation, the motivations for, and consequences of, their poems are constantly worked through, tested out, evaluated, and contradicted, always with a view to what the poetry means for the other, for the poetical communities they inhabit, and for the life of poetry itself.

This volume collects for the first time the majority of Oliver and Prynne’s correspondence, allowing new insights into the literary, political, and historical contexts of their lives and writing. An introduction, notes, and appendices provide a scholarly apparatus to situate Oliver and Prynne among the poets and publishers with whom they worked and socialized, and to identify and expand upon their frequent references to an enormous range of source material and reading matter.

“The correspondence between J. H. Prynne and Douglas Oliver is gripping and illuminating, brilliantly edited and completely absorbing. Two great poetic intelligences respond to each other’s work and to the society around them, thinking through the issues at stake in their poetic practice, their differences in approach, the different worlds they inhabit, their shared commitment to writing poetry and their admiration of each other’s work. The letters, complex as their matter can be, repay repeated reading; taken together, over a period of 33 years, they chart the context and creation of some of the most significant work in late twentieth-century poetry. This is an utterly engaging volume, and should be read by anybody interested in poetry and its place in the contemporary world.”—Ian Patterson

“For writers who welcome each other as peers, the exchange of letters is the spontaneous moment of exposure, the drawing out of selves. It is thinking in mutuality. In this thoughtfully edited and carefully, even beautifully, presented correspondence between Douglas Oliver and J. H. Prynne, two of the preeminent poets of the ‘British Poetry Revival’ of the post-World War II generations, we witness two writers of immense gifts thinking with each other, coming alive to thought and, ultimately, a shared world or community of wish. There is life, there is death; there is grief, there is anger – and love – but always there is a seeking, an attempt to arrive at a language for our worlds. Henceforth, one cannot imagine reading the work of either Oliver or Prynne without this correspondence and all that it offers in openings onto what Oliver himself saw as ‘the poet’s full performance [which] is the whole life’s work.’ It is a glimpse into an athanor of poetic creation.”—Michael Stone-Richards

Acoustic Thought
Snejanka Mihaylova
The Last Books - 20.00€ -

Acoustic Thought is an exegesis of the Gospel of Thomas, an apocryphal gospel found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945.
 
With a score for six female voices by Lisa Holmqvist; a collage of writings by medieval female mystics; and photographs taken by Jeff Weber at the Coptic Museum in Cairo, during a research period at Beirut project space.
 
The book’s covers reconstruct patterns found on the covers of Nag Hammadi Codex II, which, as well as the Gospel of Thomas, contains the Apocryphon of John, the Gospel of Philip, the Hypostasis of the Archons, On the Origin of the World, the Exegesis on the Soul, and the Book of Thomas the Contender.
 
Presented and performed during Perfomance Days, Amsterdam (November 2014) and Hotel Theory, REDCAT, Los Angeles (November 2015).

Repetition
Peter Handke
The Last Books - 14.50€ -

An English translation of Peter Handke’s 1986 novel Repetition, previously out of print for a quarter of a century.

“In Repetition, Handke allows the peculiar light which illuminates the space under a leafy canopy or a tent canvas to glisten between words, placed here with astounding caution and precision; in doing so, he succeeds in making the text into a sort of refuge amid the arid lands which, even in the culture industry, grow larger day by day.” —W. G. Sebald

“In his earliest work … Handke found a way of conveying a state of mind … where words seem to come between you and the world, where nothing coheres or appears natural, and from the vantage-point of which the ease with which other people talk and go about their business seems deeply suspicious. But just as Kafka felt there were moments when, miraculously, a written sentence – even one written by himself – seemed full light, seemed to fill its own space and establish its own rhythm, and when even the whole story seemed mysteriously to stand as solidly in the world as a tree or a rock, so it has been with Handke. He has, in his later work, appeared to make a conscious effort to escape from the debilitating awareness of his own lack of authority or authenticity, and tried to write as though somehow the story were already written, had, in a sense, always been there… Repetition is the triumphant climax of his career so far…

What saves the book from the sort of sentimentality we find in John Berger’s recent work is first of all Handke’s uncanny ability to convey what it is this urge for pattern has to overcome, and secondly, his extraordinary attention to detail, historical, geographical, botanical, and linguistic. (No review can possibly convey the richness of Filip’s meditation on his brother’s two books, or Handke’s magical way with images.)

His narrative … is one of the most dignified and moving evocations I have ever read of what it means to be alive, to walk upon this earth.” —Gabriel Josipovici

Selected Poems and Letters
Friedrich Hölderin
The Last Books - 19.00€ -  out of stock

This volume gathers all of Christopher Middleton’s Hölderlin translations, comprising thirty-one poems and fourteen letters. With an introduction, notes, and four essays on (translating) Hölderlin’s poetry.

“Christopher Middleton is an extraordinary translator, bringing his fine poet’s ear and inventiveness to the task. In addition to the brilliant versions, this volume offers Middleton’s essays on the poet and a selection from Hölderlin’s letters – a great gift to us all.” —Rosmarie Waldrop

Blackfishing the IUD (Yellow Papers 3)
Caren Beilin
The Last Books - 9.50€ -  out of stock

Excerpts from Caren Beilin’s 2019 essay/memoir about reproductive health and the IUD, gendered illness, medical gaslighting, and activism in the chronic illness community.

“The moon is hollow. The moon is hollow says a certain contingent of people, because of aliens (and, also, the moon has experienced bangs on its surface that have apparently made it ring just like a bell).
These people are conspiracy theorists. Paranoid, conclusive, certain. Too certain. They connect the dots with their eager, enormous chalk. They want something to be true. They want, I think, something new to be true, and they are taken (as I am) with the moon being like a bell, two phonemes, moon, bell, beautiful and struck across each other’s false armor, mutable and beautiful.
The moon is a bell, as the theorist Georges Bataille, in 1931, said, ‘The sun is an anus.’ He was arguing about the beauty – the absolute energy – of the copula.

‘The verb to be is the vehicle of amorous frenzy,’ he wrote, the year that Benjamin unpacked his library, alone. The moon is a bell, and I believe this absolutely, sure. The IUD is the RA. The sexual force of the verb, is, to be, of my verbacious being, will knock any noun into the moon and beyond. Everything is a parody, can be anything. The moon is hollow and made of muleskin. The moon is hollow, insofar as it is coated with the agglutinate, the shining coat, of a limit. I cannot go into the moon with my eyesight. I can’t enter my womb from that time (in November 2015) and sit crosslegged by the device, at the base of its suspending embedding, in the oaty red fist of my uterus, and watch the metal loam off its rigid cross-branch – and leech into tissues and activate, or reanimate, flare, or push over my problem. I can’t spy the center of the inception or the core of my being. I only know the timing. My health deteriorated rapidly after it was in, and I know how horrible it is, to cease planning for trips, outings, applications, or children, waiting and watching for how bad and how soon, and that the moon is hollow

This pamphlet excerpts from Blackfishing the IUD, published in 2019 by Wolfman Books, Oakland. With thanks to Caren Beilin, Jacob Kahn, and Justin Carder.

scherzos benjyosos
keston sutherland
The Last Books - 15.00€ -  out of stock

Scherzos Benjyosos is a set of four poems, scherzos in prosimetrical blocks, a comical, wild, and delirious sifting through the carnage of the financial crash, the dreamscapes of capitalist infancy, histories of sadism and persecution, the fetish bars of canonical literature, and the psychoanalysis of grass. The book also includes “Sinking Feeling,” Sutherland’s long poem from 2017, described by J. H. Prynne as “breathtakingly lovely, and desperate, racked with desire to become truthful love.”

Some reviews of other books by Keston Sutherland:
“[Hot White Andy] is the most remarkable poem in English published this century… A possible poetic future starts here.” — Jacket Magazine

“The most unsettling but also authentically hopeful account of what it is to be human now.” —3AM on The Odes to TL61P

“Immediately takes its place among the most essential works of literature in English in this new millennium.” — Chicago Review on Poetical Works 1999 –2015

“[‘Sinking Feeling’] moves like a piece of music through recursive and repeated moments, shifting and developing its described and conceptual spaces, its logics of representation, and its narrative. The thinking it follows is not always easy, but the disorienting effect on the reader is exhilarating because of the intellectual and emotional space it opens up as you try to follow it.” — London Review of Books

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