$10.00 • 50 pp. • 2004
Memnoir is a high-speed chase through intersections of chance and consciousness in the “experience of experiencing” our lives. Movies and memory swap visceral/ visual thrills with mathematics and philosophy as Retallack plays with our reliance on symbols and cultural frames of reference to get ‘to the point’ of a given moment.
“In Memnoir the cinema seems to offer a ritual catharsis of the everyday but it is a ‘ritual, which can hardly contain the virtual pain’ of ‘even a portion of life’. Retallack challenges prescriped figurations of time and knowledge by investigating the possibilities and impossibilities of the ‘carefully constructed’ containers of the book, the movie, and even language itself. (…) The only possible hint of escape is the potential for knowledge—to go on discovering the plots, the codings, the clues that swerve the reader into multiple modes of attention and engagement with the poem and the world in and around it. For Retallack, this is knowledge as self-awareness, the poetical moment of curiousness, which helps one to help ‘the story of […] life in a calm, clear voice’.”
—Redell Olsen for The Poetry Project Newsletter # 201, December/January, 2004-2005
“Joan Retallack’s marvelous Memnoir is so much more than what one can say about it. The unforgettable words she offers look back on ‘one of those periods when life seems superficially friendly’ or is this the ‘hot majestic interlude’ of a film version of the same?”
“Reconfiguring the geometry of attention, Retallack’s Memnoir opens to a present in which ‘coming out of the movie theater the world is bright gnomic present tense tensile everything happening at once…’”
“Joan Retallack has almost single handedly convinced us that the avant garde is still the avant garde. Her own work is always distinctive for its unpredictable pleasures. In Memnoir she turns our attention to the unpredictable patterns of memory. A stunning poem.”
Joan Retallack is an American poet, critic, biographer, and multi-disciplinary scholar who has authored seven books, including Circumstantial Evidence (1985), Icarus FFFFFalling (1994), A F T E R R I M A G E S (1995), and Memnoir (2004). As the author of numerous critical studies, including The Poethical Wager (2003), Retallack has also published a volume on Gertrude Stein and a book of conversations with American composer and poet John Cage and written essays for Poetics Journal, Parnassus, and the Washington Review of the Arts. Her awards include an American Award in Belles-Lettres, a Pushcart Prize, and grants from the Lannan Foundation for poetry and the National Endowment for the Arts. Retallack currently teaches poetry and poetics as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Humanities at Bard College, where she is a director of the Language & Thinking program.