Allen Fisher's LEANS is out

Leans, the third and final volume of Allen Fisher’s Gravity as a Consequence of Shape has just come out from Salt Publishing. Gravity is to my mind the major long work by an anglophone writer of the last decades of the past century – or maybe better, straddling the two centuries. The work combines a most powerful degree of formal invention (procedural structures crossed, bent, enriched and written through by processual activities) with a political and social radicalism and insight that is breathtaking. It is impossible to sum up such work in a few paragraphs, though here is how the British critic Clive Bush has tried to describe it: “His poetry shows… a huge range of learning. His interests include ancient archeology, western and non-western traditions of sculpture and painting, mathmetics, the local history of the City of London and contemporary music.” I would add to these: astrophysics, geography, theoretical physics from Lucretius to string theory, biology, systems of healing, contemporary theoretical thinking from Adorno to Deleuze, and so on. Bush then compares the enterprise to the ambition Shelley proposed for the poet’s work when he wrote in the Defense of Poetry: “Poetry is at once the center and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred. It is at the same time the root and blossom of all other systems of thought…”
This is more than a handful of knowledge and the poetics involved go as far back as Blake whose lines “ I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s; / I will not reason or compare; my business is to create,” could stand as motto for Fisher’s work. But of course there always are other men and women’s work that stand behind even as individual a system as Allen Fisher’s — Clive Bush again: “Fisher shares with Pound the breadth of cultural ambition; with Williams the sense of place, the local as a complex of occasions, and of science as a co-eval creativity analogous at least with the poetic act; with Olson a visionary view of the transformations of the earth’s structure, the patterns of trade, and a fascination with ancient and pre-socratic culture; and with Oppen a concern for critical philosophy and the victims of oppression.”
Allen Fisher’s work has been a touchstone for my own thinking and poetics for the past 35 years, i.e. since we met in the early seventies in London; it is work I return to again and again for instruction, for pleasure, for puzzlement, for a sense of awe in the possibilities of poetry whenever I get discouraged by the poetry world. It is truly major work, and the reading of it has just begun, as I wrote in A Nomad Poetics: “We will take the whole of the new century to finally read Allen Fisher’s vast investigation into all our knowledges, the great serial constructive dérive he calls Gravity as a consequence of shape.”

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