Words on Edge (Black Square Editions, 2018)

•February 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

My upcoming book Words on Edge is at the printer and available for pre-order at the BSE website. Much respect and gratitude to Shanna Compton for the smart design, to Laura Mullen for the enthusiastic blurb, and to John Yau for believing in the work.

Working out a necessary and constantly evolving counterintuition—uneasy, agitated, restless and ceaselessly inventive—Michael Leong’s Words on Edge clocks the alarm of those who “wake late” in a world of fragments and found materials. Bricoleur of the “jagged, ad hoc equation” that is the contemporary, the poet constellates a spacious, ever-enlarging structure from a heap of broken posterities to make space for “the first blossoms of wild meaning.” The assertions are fresh, tragicomic, and engaging, and the ongoing effort to accurately describe (and affect) a transforming situation is thrilling: this is work that leads us toward “a future collapse into / a full state of wakefulness.” Don’t wait!

—Laura Mullen

Douglas Dowland’s “How Academe Breeds Resentment”

•February 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

from Vincent Sardon’s The Stampographer (Siglio Press, 2017).

Surrounding each step in academic life — graduation, employment, publication, promotion — is a labyrinth that draws out our vulnerability and makes us feel powerless. And with this powerlessness comes the idea that power is something others have — perhaps the tenured, or those in administration. Someone benefits from your hard work — and that person is not you. Thus academe plants the seeds of our resentment […] It would be naïve to think it entirely possible to avoid resentment among the drama and flutter of everyday academic life. And it would be foolish to dismiss as mere resentment the legitimate anger felt by those trapped in academe’s cycle of exploitation. What we need is to reflect inward with an eye toward solidarity. This is difficult, given how we have built our identities around the traps that academe has baited for us: status, rank, output. Resentment distracts. It aspires to make trust impossible and to blind us to alliances that are in plain sight. But what we need most is a sense of self-awareness: that we are not alone; that our stories are complex; that we have more in common than we might think. We need to stare resentment in the face.

-from Douglas Dowland’s “How Academe Breeds Resentment,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 4, 2018.

Nicanor Parra (1914-2018)

•January 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

from Artefactos (1972).

Hyperrhiz 18 (Winter 2018)

•January 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The new issue of Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, edited by Helen J Burgess, is now live. My artist statement “How Who Unfolded My Origami Brain? Unfolded” leads off the issue. Here’s a brief abstract:

This essay details the process of composing the electronic collection of poetry Who Unfolded My Origami Brain?, which was published by Fence Digital, a new imprint of Fence Books. By contextualizing my e-book with Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s ideas of immediacy and hypermediacy, I challenge the facile but enduring opposition between the sensuous materiality of print culture and the supposed dematerialization of digital culture.

Read the full essay here.

boneless skinless (volume 2)

•December 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment


The new volume of boneless skinless is now out and can be found in various venues across Philadelphia (or ordered online).

featuring work by

Emily Abendroth
Maryan Nagy Captan
Kate Colby
Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela
Davy Knittle
Michael Leong
Emma Brown Sanders
Chris Schaeffer
Mai Schwartz

Andrew Joron’s The Absolute Letter (Flood Editions, 2017)

•November 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hyperallergic Weekend has published my review of Andrew Joron’s new book of poems. Here are the first three paragraphs:

The fact that much of contemporary American poetic practice is derived from British Romanticism should come as no surprise. We might think of, for example, William Wordsworth’s elevation of plainspoken diction — the “language really spoken by men,” as he put it in the preface to the Lyrical Ballads — or Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s dictum of “the best words in their best order.” We might also think of the longevity of what the Romanticist M.H. Abrams famously called the “greater Romantic lyric,” whose “determinate speaker in a particularized […] setting […] achieves an insight, faces up to a tragic loss, comes to a moral decision, or resolves an emotional problem.” Sound familiar?

But what would American poetry look like if it had followed not the better-known poetics of British Romanticism but the theoretical foundations of early German Romanticism? Any answer to this question would have to reckon with Andrew Joron’s dazzling new collection The Absolute Letter (Flood Editions, 2017), which integrates the polymathic thinking of Novalis into a sophisticated poetic praxis. Joron’s book opens with a preface entitled “The Argument; Or, My Novalis,” which boldly propounds that “the world itself is composed of the letters of the Absolute: anything, real or ideal, that undergoes a self-complicating — ultimately musical — form of motion becomes a sign of the processual emergence of the Infinite within the finite.”

Joron’s poetry is fundamentally “Romantic” in that it exponentializes. It is marked by, as Novalis says, “a qualitative raising to a higher power.” In his 2015 essay “Accident over N: Lines of Flight in the Philosophical Notebooks of Novalis,” which can serve as an illuminating theoretical framework for The Absolute Letter, Joron says, “To romanticize — that is, to magic or to mimic the insurgencies of the Absolute — start anywhere. Then, to realize the necessity of this freedom, exponentialize that arbitrary thought or thing toward its opposite, its other. Romantic logic is a pandemonium of paradoxical symmetries.” If this sounds like a Romantic philosophy enriched by the irreverent energies of surrealism — think of the paradoxical symmetry of René Magritte’s La Reproduction interdite — it’s because, according to Joron, “Novalis’s work in fiction and poetry never achieved the radicality of his own poetics […] It would require the poetic innovations of symbolism and surrealism to come close to fulfilling the promise of — the prevision of — the poetics of Novalis.” We might say that surrealism is Romanticism raised to a higher power, and it is this “exponentialized Romanticism” that informs Joron’s pursuit of a critical poetry, “critical” here meaning “constituting or relating to a point at which some action, property or condition passes over into another” — as reality passing over into the surreal.

Find the full review here.

The Oulipo Festschrift (Verbivoracious Press, 2017)

•October 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve got a new essay “Oulipo, Foulipo, Noulipo: The Gendered Politics of Literary Constraints” in Verbivoracious Press’s new volume on The Oulipo. See below for details:

The sixth Verbivoracious Festschrift is a brobdingnagian spectacular fêting the famous workshop of potential literature, The Oulipo, now entering its 57th year. Our contributors were invited to write a piece of fiction, an essay, a poem, or any other hybrid, and choose their own constraints. The results have yielded a marvellous sprawl of oulipian homage, from petite poetic tributes to Queneau, to long lipogrammatic bows to Perec. In this issue: Philip Terry’s take on Perec’s I Remember, Warren Motte’s literary abecedaries, David Bellos’s iconoclastic essay on Hugo and Perec, two chapters from Jeff Bursey’s lipogrammic novel Ennead, Louis Bury’s anticipatory blurbs, Michael Leong’s take on the Oulipo’s ever-expanding influence, Tom Jenks and Jeanelle D’Alessandro’s satirical N+7s, Andriana Minou’s typographically playful novella Hypnotic Labyrinth, John Peck’s murder mystery in 100 sentences, poetry from Doug Nufer and Stephen Frug, Marc Lapprand’s view on evolution and The Oulipo, a slew of palindromes, lists, papers, and fancies from Pablo Ruiz, and many other pieces. The issue concludes with a wholly original work of sustained constraint: Christine Brooke-Rose’s first novel rewritten with her grammatical constraints and polylingual puns reinstated. The sixth issue is our fattest feast yet, and a must for Oulipo enthusiasts.

Release Date: October 24th, 2017.  ISBN: 9789811138669. 507pp. Available from all booksellers and usual online retailers.

Pricing Information:

Paperback: GBP13.99 + postage GBP2.00 within UK, US, AU, CAN, EU, ZA, NZ, IN and SG.