Review of Ken Irby’s Collected

Interesting review of Ken Irby’s Collected The Intent On on a blog I hadn’t known of til now. Opening gambit below; read the full piece here:


by Kenneth Irby
North Atlantic Books 2009
Reviewed by Mike McDonough


“the back / calm pasture of the mind”

In 2009, North Atlantic Books published a handsome book finally gathering the work of Kenneth Irby, one of Charles Olson’s lesser known disciples, who has labored in small press obscurity since the early ‘60’s. Irby fans (including myself) have been waiting for a comprehensive collection since Station Hill Press put out Call Steps in 1991. My first reaction was too much like the blurbs on the back, making me feel like, as Stephen King put it in the self-effacing preface to his book on writing, “a literary gasbag or a transcendental asshole.” But any review of Irby should emphasize that this work is not necessarily easy to approach.

As a title for his collected works, The Intent On is unpromising and not as representative as previous headings such as OrexisCatalpa, or Relation might be, but it does make the point that Irby is writing in the space “after I,” and suggests two of his main influences, Louis Zukofsky and Ed Dorn, who might be overlooked beneath Olson’s looming presence. The title also points towards his increasing attention to tracking the atomic particles of language. I offer the following quote as an example of Irby’s pacing and form:

or all the high school years again, unslept, reviewing the annual faces over and over
till they run green in the movies after the eyes are closed
and still as distant as they were in person

the society of ordinary
high school days, never left, will it?


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