Indeterminacy is the engine of Rod Smith’s book of poems, In Memory of My Theories, whose title, evoking Frank O’Hara’s In Memory of My Feelings, indicates the poetic stakes of a post-New York School world. The book is a sustained, self-reflexive investigation of the role of art in our postmodern era. Refusing easy distillation, the poems suggest that the unravelling of ideology through poetic misdirection may be the new irony and the new ethos.
Praise for In Memory of My Theories
In these “subnanosecond studies” in “juiced space,” Rod Smith is the Orwellian ringmaster of an aleatory circus where Chomsky performs Cage and Wittgenstein meets Debord. The ensuing spectacle calls the “varicose polis” to collaborative action against the carceral-corporate state. There is no higher calling.
— Carolyn Forché
Art is no consolation, but it is art. Rod Smith sends us this “thinking event of the pulse fetish tone handle” from America’s capital, where each day blank, pig-eyed men, hissing a kind of English, work toward the further redistribution of wealth from the children of the underclasses to the orbiting robots of capital. Tinned and untinned, Smith’s art speaks in resistance to treachery, and on behalf of several supressed tendencies and human possibilities, some new, some older than agriculture. “A fringe limitation / structures history,” but “no analysand can indent this largesse.”
— Kevin Davies
Replacing the last word in Frank O’Hara’s 1956 “In Memory of My Feelings,” Rod Smith augments O’Hara’s ironic nostalgia for emotion with an exuberant splattering of social thought. Because these poems constantly violate the norms of form, voice, topic, trope, and style, they are virtually impossible to read without abandoning all hope of any overarching agreement. You just have to climb inside them and experience their bumpy contours for yourself.
— Kit Robinson
Rod Smith mixes his modes, switching—often at lightning speed—from the wryly intimate to the linguistically playful, from the humorous to the “abstract.” …Smith’s work trashes the impasse between Theory and Feeling, by readmitting a razor quick playfulness into poetic diction.
— Mark DuCharme, Washington Review
Smith takes standard dichotomies (interior/exterior, mind/body, etc.) and reconfigures them, removes the standard value grid to reveal a more wrenching grid of doubt. “[A]nd the body you have/is entirely the body/of vacuous mental images//constant round of becoming/bless me to transmute them//we are by nature heavily there//and there appears”… Everything is false, and yet incessantly weighted. Or weighted by the inability to distinguish. The same details reappear (clocks, dust, habit) as if markers that we are lost and covering the same ground over, though someone has been there in the interim to rearrange things just a little.
— Deirdre Kovac, Poetry Project Newsletter