From the Contemporary Poetry Series #1
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.
Praise for Memnoir
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?
— John Ashbery
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…”
— Leslie Scalapino
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.
— Julianna Spahr
Retallack creates a hybrid composed of the supposedly truthful genre of memoir and the fictional genre of film noir. The two generic discourses are stitched together with “i.e.” and “e.g.”… But rather than create an elucidating connection, they signal an atmospheric shift, a cinematic cut, a swerve in an alternate direction.
— Jena Osman, Eleven More American Women Poets in the 21st Century
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 prescribed 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, The Poetry Project Newsletter