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Verse and Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989–2009 presents texts from the last two decades of work by Steve McCaffery, one of the most influential and innovative of contemporary poets. The volume focuses on selections from McCaffery’s major texts, including The Black Debt, Theory of Sediment, The Cheat of Words, and Slightly Left of Thinking, but also features a substantial number of previously ungathered poems. As playful as they are cerebral, McCaffery’s poems stage an incessant departure from conventional lyrical and narrative methods of making meaning. For those encountering McCaffery’s work for the first time as well as for those who have followed the twists and turns of his astonishingly heterogeneous poetic trajectory over the past four decades—this volume is essential reading.
About the Author
Steve McCaffery is the author of over twenty-five books of poetry and criticism. He has twice been awarded the Gertrude Stein Award for innovative poetry and twice shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. His poems have been published in more than a dozen countries. A long-time resident of Toronto, he is currently the David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters, University at Buffalo.
Darren Wershler is the author or co-author of ten books, most recently The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (2007) and, with Bill Kennedy, apostrophe (2006). The former senior editor of Coach House Books, Wershler is an assistant professor of communication studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, faculty at the Canadian Film Centre Interactive Art and Entertainment Program, and a research affiliate of the IP Osgoode Intellectual Property Law&Technology program.
Read an Excerpt
The Dangers of Poetry (for Italo Calvino) by Steve McCaffery
Maybe you don’t like this poem or perhaps you don’t want to read it perhaps you should do something else like wash last night’s dishes or watch TV if I were you I’d try reading a good book or even start to write one but perhaps you haven’t stopped reading this poem just yet while you’re wondering what else you could read or perhaps your interest in this poem has miraculously changed maybe you’re enjoying it or finding it a challenge or perhaps you’re simply thinking it would be a waste of precious time having read it so far to not read it to the end or perhaps there's nothing you can do because perhaps this is a class that you can’t get out of or the start of a conference you've paid a lot of money to attend or perhaps its a punishment prescribed in a minimum security prison you’re now in for five or even ten years or perhaps reading this poem has induced paralysis and you can’t move not even to blink your eyes or perhaps you believe it can’t get worse but it does get worse and you think all these thoughts again and then compare this poem to the start of Italo Calvino's novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and that the two might be related perhaps you think that this poem was actually written by Calvino under the pseudonym of Steve McCaffery and then you think that this might be the poem Calvino didn’t write but wished he had and by this time an entire week has passed and you’re still at your desk at the office because you never went home and perhaps you couldn’t have anyway because a friend called to tell you that your house burned down and all your pets and family burned to death because you were still reading this poem.
Ephemera by Steve McCaffery
What's this? Looks like a millennium for maximum embarrassment and quite proteiform in its lack of politesse an obsequious curling to the new philosophy of counter subterfuge but whatever it's doing it's doing it in secret perhaps it's just shot a pragmatist through an organ of transmission, or got hired as a transitory hieroglyph it looks too paranoid to have never read the Bible or is it an island shy enough to not become an archipelago or perhaps a genetic mutation right in the walls of the divine city. Imagine it saying that before it came to grammar as a micro-particle of order it was a thought in the head of William Blake. Reverence always beckons emblems to its New Atlantis to reconnoiter the several incapacities that seal a fate as noise.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents for Verse and Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989–2009, selected with an introduction by Darren Wershler
Foreword | Neil Besner
Introduction | Darren Wershler
A Theory of the Lyric
from Teachable Texts
from Theory of Sediment: The Curve to Its Answer
A Child’s History of Rhetoric Caught as It Happens
from The Entries
A Few Donuts from an Hommagiste or: Bad Modernism
from Some Versions of Pastoral
Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Coleridge in Calgary (ars poetica 4)
from An Effect of Cellophane
Oedipus Meets the Abstract Machine
Suggestion but No Insult
The Dangers of Poetry (for Italo Calvino)
The Lone Ranger in Arcadia
Restricted Translation with Imperfect Level Shift (after Basho)
The Poem as a Thing to See
The View from Here
Correlata for a Cryptogram
The Logic of Six
First Vico Meditation
Second Vico Meditation
Prior to Meaning
Afterword | Steve McCaffery