John Ashbery (1927–2017)
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“Our gestures have taken us farther into the day
Than tomorrow will understand.

 

They live us.”

 

—John Ashbery (1927–2017), “All Kinds of Caresses,” CR 27:04, 1976

 

Chicago Review mourns the passing of John Ashbery, one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century and an ever-generous contributor to this journal. His first poem in CR was “The Mysterious X” (1974), followed by “The Thief of Poetry” and “All Kinds of Caresses” (1976). Of “All Kinds of Caresses,” which was reprinted in CR‘s Fifty Years: A Retrospective Issue, the editors noted: “[Ashbery’s] poetry is famously difficult; as he writes in the following poem, ‘it isn’t absolutely clear.'”

In the coming years, CR would go on to publish four more of Ashbery’s poems (in our 2006 sixtieth-anniversary issue), a letter he wrote in response to poet Eileen Myles (2008), and his correspondence with Elliott Carter regarding their collaboration on “Syringa” (2014). Photographs of Carter’s manuscript sketches alongside Ashbery’s poem text were featured in that special issue, 58:34.

In memory of John Ashbery, we have made all of his contributions to CR (1974–2006) available here.

 

Chicago Book Expo 2017
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We look forward to seeing you at Chicago Review’s table at this year’s Chicago Book Expo, thanks to the sponsorship of our friends at the Poetry Foundation.

The Expo will be held at 1104 South Wabash Avenue beginning at noon on October 1st. Learn more at www.chicagobookexpo.org.

Seeing Eldzier Cortor
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“Perhaps all compelling works of art engage the eye differently over time, and expand one’s capacity to see. For me, this is certainly true of Cortor’s work.”

In Chicago Review 59:4/60:1, Liesl Olson covers the visual artist Eldzier Cortor, whose work is on permanent display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Read the full essay and interview online!

Unanswerable Questions
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“The question forms of contemporary poetry in the ‘tradition of what is unanswerable’ perform the unanswerable as a specimen of resistance to the logic of commensurability, identity, and equivalence.”



In “Unanswerable Questions,” Joe Luna examines the erotetic in contemporary British and American poetry. Read the full piece here.

The Terror of Ordinariness: On David Lynch
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“It was also a tribute to the career of one of the most important filmmakers alive. It is, after all, impossible to conceive of the landscape of contemporary American cinema without Lynch. If he didn’t exist we would have to invent him.”

 

Eric Powell reviews “David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective” at the Music Box Theatre. Read more in Chicago.
Kristin Dykstra, In Memoriam Juan Carlos Flores (1962-2016)
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The tragic loss came in 2016. Stop-motion images of death compete unnaturally with his poetics: his poems swivel, cycle, gesticulate, perform.

After death the poems hold their ground in an aesthetic awareness of home, one marked with specifics of life in Cuba, where Juan Carlos Flores lived in a public housing community that rose out of the ground in a way that could only have happened in certain decades following the 1959 Revolution.

But his poems still move.

Read more in Commentary.

Kent Johnson, I Once Met
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Reviewed by Jeremy Noel-Tod

 

Every poetic community knows “that guy.” He—and it is usually he—is the gadfly in the ointment, the satirist or critic who mocks the pretensions of the leading figures of the day. “That guy” is not so much an individual talent as a singular pain in the ass. In early eighteenth-century England, he also happened to be the era’s finest poet, Alexander Pope, who in The Dunciad and the spoof essay “Peri Bathous” laid mock-heroic waste to his contemporaries. Three centuries later, he is known to Internet sociology as a “troll,” lurking below the line as once below the bridge.

Kent Johnson, as this second expanded edition of his “partial memoir,” I Once Met, acknowledges, has long been “that guy” at the avant end of American poetry. Each short section is structured around the conceit of a remembered meeting in the “Poetry Field.” The fifth reads in full:

I once met Marjorie Perloff. This was at the MLA, though I can’t remember the city; it was long ago, I think it was D.C. She is a great critic and an extraordinarily generous person. Kent, this is Bob Perelman, said Marjorie. Bob, this is Kent Johnson. Oh, so you’re that guy, said Bob. What guy? I said.

Read more here: http://chicagoreview.org/reviews/
Bootycandy, written and directed by Robert O’Hara
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A mountain of lime green Jell-O shots greeted theatergoers in the lobby of the Windy City Playhouse on Saint Patrick’s Day. A brash, acerbic, overly sweet welcome, and yet a relatively tame prelude to a bold production of Bootycandy, written and directed by Robert O’Hara.

The play contains what at first appear to be a series of vignettes linked, if narrowly, by common thematics: the expression of desire and the negotiation of gender and class identities in primarily black settings. Concluding the first act is a conference panel at which four exasperated African American playwrights indulge an exasperating white moderator by describing current works in progress—works that we, the audience, have just witnessed. If this mise en abyme comes across as somewhat of a gimmick, the second act cleverly mashes up the different storylines, in addition to abolishing the boundary between said storylines and the brand of meta-commentary on display in the conference scene. What emerges from this creative chaos is an impressionistic epic that covers the journey from childhood to adulthood of Sutter, a black gay man.

Read more in Chicago