Up to Speed / Edition 1

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Rae Armantrout’s most recent collection of poems focuses on the phenomenon of time, both as lived experience at the start of the 21st century and as a stubborn mystery confronting physicists and philosophers. The poems in this book are polyphonic: they juxtapose the discourses of science and religion, Hollywood and the occasional psychotic stranger. The title poem, which appears in Best American Poetry 2002, leads off with a “sphinx” asking “Does a road / run its whole length / at once? / Does a creature / curve to meet / itself?” Armantrout’s work, with its careful syntax bordering on plain speech and meticulously scored short lines, is always struggling with the problem of consciousness, its blindspots and double-binds. The poems whirl like shifting and scattered pieces of the present moment. They attempt to "make sense" of our lives while acknowledging the depth of our self-deception and deception.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Williams and Dickinson together taught Armantrout how to dismantle and reassemble the forms of stanzaic lyric... how to embody large questions and apprehensions in the conjunctions of individual words, how to generate productive clashes from the arrangements of small groups of phrases. From these techniques, Armantrout has become one of the most recognizable, and one of the best, poets of her generation."—Boston Review
Publishers Weekly
Following her breakout Veil: New and Selected Poems (2001), Armantrout here consolidates her place as a preeminent poet of economy-in the senses of aesthetic compression, and of tracking cash's effect on brain and culture. In 42 poems of no more than two pages, carved lines progress seamlessly into stanzas spare to the point of parsimony, a rebuke of excess that expresses itself in a Roman comedy of winks and nudges: " `Why do Princesses/ Caroline and Stephanie// always marry/ the wrong men?' " The poems relentlessly quote the celebrity gossip, Madison Avenue-like inanities and cable news hype to which much "ordinary" conversation has been reduced, focusing in on the barbiturate effects of repetitions and banal generalizations that preclude real exchange: " `I don't need to see the rest' I say./ `I can assume redundancy.' " Yet while she is certainly a major satirist, Armantrout cannot be reduced to a set of zingers. The opening syllogism of "Upper World" ("If sadness/ is akin to patience,// we're back!") reveals the real despair produced by empty language, and proceeds to an understated litany of loss: "No more wishes.// No more bungalows/ behind car-washes/ painted the color of/ swimming pools." Despite the wryness, the speaker of these poems is not so much pointing fingers as trying to point out what it is that makes people adopt language like " `Don't let the car fool you.// My treasure/ is in heaven.' " In doing so, these cryptic, probing poems are a national treasure, bringing readers up to speed on the "reiterative/ noodling/ in absentia" in which lives are expended. (Feb. 3) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819566980
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 2/3/2004
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

RAE ARMANTROUT is a professor of writing in the literature department at the University of California at San Diego, and the author of eight books of poetry, including Up to Speed (2003) and Veil: New and Selected Poems (2001).

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Read an Excerpt

Streamline to intantaneous
voucher in/voucher out
The plot winnows.
The Sphinx
wants me to guess
Does a road
run its whole length
at once?
Does a creature
curve to meet itself

Covered or bupboard
breast Real
kinesthesiac. Cans
held high
to counterbalance won't.
It is
such agendas
whiche survive
as souls?
Vagueness is personal!
A wall of concrete bricks,
right here,
while sun surveys its grooves
and I try
instantly then forever.
But the word is
way back,
Ligh is with God
(light, the traveler).

Are you come-on
and the egress?
One who hobbles by
Not yet?

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Table of Contents

up to Speed
• Form
• Currency
• Exceptional
• Sake
• Afterlife
• The Fit
• Middle Man
• Solid
• Co-Existence
• Entanglement
• My Advantage
• End Times
• Seconds
• The Cell Phone at Your Ear May Not Exist
• Fieldwork
• In Time
• Interior Design
• Next Generation
• Intact
• Upper World
• Many
• Once
• Another Sense
• Transaction
• Flinch
• Wrte Home
• Visualizations
• yet
• As One
• Enough
• This Time
• Interval
• En Route
• Imaginary Places
• Speaking
• Gorgons
• Boz
• Almost
• Phrashing
• Now This
• Back

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