Money Shot

Money Shot

by Rae Armantrout

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The poems in Money Shot are forensic. Just as the money shot in porn is proof of the male orgasm, these poems explore questions of revelation and concealment. What is seen, what is hidden, and how do we know? Money Shot’s investigation of these questions takes on a particular urgency because it occurs in the context of the suddenly revealed market manipulation…  See more details below


The poems in Money Shot are forensic. Just as the money shot in porn is proof of the male orgasm, these poems explore questions of revelation and concealment. What is seen, what is hidden, and how do we know? Money Shot’s investigation of these questions takes on a particular urgency because it occurs in the context of the suddenly revealed market manipulation and subsequent “great recession” of 2008–2009. In these poems, Rae Armantrout searches for new ways to organize information. What can be made manifest? What constitutes proof? Do we “know it when we see it”? Looking at sex, botany, cosmology, and death through the dark lens of “disaster capitalism,” Armantrout finds evidence of betrayal, grounds for rebellion, moments of possibility, and even pleasure, in a time of sudden scarcity and relentless greed. This stunning follow-up to Versed—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award—is a wonderfully stringent exploration of how deeply our experience of everyday life is embedded in capitalism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Her follow up to Versed, the prize-winning volume, is due out from Wesleyan University Press in February, and it's a stunner."—Craig Teicher, Publishers Weekly

"Working from a minimalist position, Armantrout has the ability to magnify the merest of words into an essay. True to the postmodern tradition, she gives no answer to the provocative questions she raises. Instead Money Shot offers sure proof of one thing: A well-wrought book of poems."—John Herbert Cunningham, Rain Taxi

"Armantrout's work is distinguished by, among other things, a sense of economy and elegant precision."—David Wheatley, Times Literary Supplement

“…there are a lot of possibilities. Which is exciting, and frightening…Indeed, the charged openness of language is itself enough to power these poems. What makes Money Shot such a success is Armantrout’s ability to distill this linguistic energy without compromising the ability of these poems to make lucid associative connections…Let’s play a game, Armantrout seems to say. This game has to do with language, and either it will destroy us or leave us alone on a sunny day. Take your pick.”—Nick Sturm, Laurel Review

Publishers Weekly
In her follow-up to the Pulitzer- and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Versed, Armantrout--who has always built her wily, jumpy, intricately witty and wise poems from scraps of popular and high culture, overheard speech, and found text, as well as her own quirky observations--tackles, in her oblique and inimitable way, what is perhaps the signature issue of the new millennium: money, or, more generally, how everything human has a price. "Hit the refresh button/ and this is what you get," writes Armantrout in "Money Talks": "money pretending/ that its hands are tied." These poems observe a world in which we assign blame to money—or "Mother," "Great angels" and "the objects/ I have caused// to represent me/ in my absence"—rather than take responsibility ourselves. We also mistake superstitious obsession for hard work, believing, for example, "The idea that,/ if I say it well enough,/ fear/ will be gone." And it's a world where degradation is sexy ("They're beneath you/ and it's hot") and "Security cameras/ record each moment, but/ nobody can bear to watch." Armantrout is only getting better: these new poems are among her best, and among the most relevant poems now being written. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In her first book after Versed, winner of last year's Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle award, Armantrout presents 62 poems that showcase the language poetry techniques of quick tonal changes, subject leaps, and the incorporation of white space. The poems move rapidly, partially because Armantrout writes a very short line—often three words or fewer—with many paragraph breaks. Her descriptions have the quality of things glanced at sideways, and she is best at describing unusual details: "All night/ the sea coughs up// green strands." Many poems have two halves that speak about entirely different subjects; the reader must make connections between them. The poems require multiple readings, and sometimes the meanings are still not clear. For example, the title poem begins, "IndyMac:// Able to exploit pre-/existing.// Tain.// Per. In. Con./ Cyst." After research, one finds that IndyMac is a mortgage company involved in the banking and loan failure and "tain" is tin plate or foil. Still, the poet's unique way of observing the world combined with dynamic language creates beautiful sections. VERDICT These poems will appeal to those who like language poetry, but more traditionalists may side with the question posed in the title poem, "Why don't you just say/ what you mean?"—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

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Product Details

Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Money Shot

By Rae Armantrout

Wesleyan University Press

Copyright © 2011 Rae Armantrout
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8195-7130-4



    Everything will be made new.

    The precision coupling
    and uncoupling,

    the studied
    and folding

    have already begun.

    Stillness of gauzy curtains

    and the sound
    of distant vacuums.

    Prolonged sigh
    of traffic

    and the downward
    curve of fronds.

    The spray
    of all possible paths.

    Define possible.


    As if
    the space around
    each particle were filled
    with countless
    virtual particles.

    * * *

    And the Lord said,

    "I am aware
    of weighing options,

    of dither,

    but the moment of decision
    has always remained obscure."

    * * *

    Which one of these
    do you most closely resemble?

    Green stucco bungalow,

    four brown gargoyles
    on its flat roof.

    Beehive Diva;

    Rehab Idol.

    * * *



    stinging jelly
    is a colony.

    The Given

    Given potassium enough
    and time,

    the bougainvillea explodes

    into pink
    papier-mâché boxes.

    * * *

    Availability bias.

    * * *

    "The risk
    of a bubble bursting

    should be reflected
    in the price ..."

    Money Shot


    Able to exploit pre-


    Per. In. Con.

    I'm on a crowded ship
    and I've been served the wrong breakfast.

    This small mound
    of soggy dough
    is not what I ordered.

    "Why don't you just say
    what you mean?"

    Why don't I?


    under an oval lake
    of glass

    across which
    this morning
    parallel wakes

    gleaming bits
    of skin, akin
    to happiness?

    Of course, "across"
    is metaphorical.

    But light is violent and weightless.

    Light is the wail of atoms
    pressed to touch.

    It is reluctance

    to absolute velocity

    The Agent

    The time travel paradox:
    each passing thought
    is the thinker.

    Security cameras
    record each moment, but
    nobody can bear to watch.

    We are now convinced
    that the past is populated
    by automatons.

    The time-traveler
    is the one free agent.

    When the present
    goes on record,

    she is thinking,
    "This feels wrong!"


    We pray
    and the resurrection happens.

    Here are the young

    sniping and giggling,

    as ringing phones.

    All we ask
    is that our thinking

    sustain momentum,
    identify targets.

    The pressure
    in my lower back
    rising to be recognized
    as pain.

    The blue triangles
    on the rug

    Coming up,
    a discussion
    on the uses
    of torture.

    The fear
    that all this
    will end.

    The fear
    that it won't.


    To come to
    in the middle

    of a vibrato —
    an "is" —

    that some soprano's

    to sustain.

    To be awake
    is to discriminate

    among birdcalls,
    fruits, seeds,

    "to work one's way,"
    as they say,


    Just now

    into awareness,
    falling forward,

    hurtling inland
    in all innocence

    Working Models

    A diversity noir
    hit in which

    a shape-shifter
    and a vampire

    run rival
    drinking establishments.

    * * *

    handle routine tasks

    once we're in the zone,

    and released

    into the workforce.

    * * *

    Chicks are forced to find food

    scattered among pebbles

    while monitoring

    for the appearance
    of a model predator.

    * * *

    Apes can mind-read.
    Studies show

    what makes us human
    is our tendency to point.

    The Air

    Our first gods
    were cartoon characters —

    quirks and quarks
    each dead
    and immortal.

    Silence is death
    silence is dead-air.

    Give a meme
    a hair-do.

    Give it a split-screen.

    Make it ask itself
    the wrong question.

    Make it eat questions
    and grow long.

    Service Record

    If narrative
    is a police report,
    a woman tells her companion,
    "I had woke up
    at 11:03."

    * * *

    A mourning dove walks along a low wall
    with odd propriety, then flutters
    to the roots of a tree nearby
    where she picks up and drops
    small sticks. Her chest is dusky
    rose, her feet magenta.
    There are intense
    black circles
    on her gray wings.

    * * *

    As if any stranger
    or strange thing
    might serve.

    * * *

    The only person on the street
    wears brown slacks and a polo shirt.
    As he walks, he slashes downward,
    now and then,
    with what might
    be a quirt.


    My dreams are cruel
    children. They taunt me.

    I dream I'm telling a story
    the punch line of which
    will involve deviled eggs.
    I'm saying
    some idiot
    asked me where they originated.
    I found that funny
    or unfair.
    Launched into this anecdote,
    this dream, this poem,
    I'm already worried. Now I see
    the pair I'm addressing
    have put their heads together,
    hatching something,
    over the crosswords.


    Mary removed it,

    from the brain case
    and placed it

    on the metal stand.

    * * *

    I join myself
    to it, this

    disinterested voice,

    speaking as if
    in retrospect,

    as if
    to another person.

    * * *

    I am not alone in this

    A bee has landed,

    on a purple tip
    of lavender,

    pitching in wind.


    If the good is momentum,
    smooth passage,
    putting all this
    behind you,

    evil is the whirlpool,
    the amplified local.

    If good is the all-enduring
    that carries you
    to the future,

    evil is the present's
    animal magnetism.

    Wily one,
    you disguise yourself

    to appear
    in your own person.

    "If only he would come again
    as he once was,"
    they say.


    The sun on my back
    like your hand

    at night,
    in bed,

    and then again,

    your hand
    on my back at night

    like the sun
    has burned through

    two-thirds of its fuel.

    That you adorn the fallen.

    That your heads
    and shafts
    are smooth,

    a spongy marble.

    That you are stock-still
    and spontaneous at once.

    That you are one

    (as we always thought
    we knew).


Excerpted from Money Shot by Rae Armantrout. Copyright © 2011 Rae Armantrout. Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Peter Nicholls
“The breathtaking economy of these deftly crafted poems yields high dividends indeed. This is the real thing, no doubt about it….”
Susan Wheeler
“In a world of real justice, all speech would be sifted in Rae Armantrout’s gold pan. In what may be her best book yet, the poems of Money Shot sort our sorry tropes and reveal the fool’s gold with which we’ve smitten ourselves once again.”

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