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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dawn Lundy Martin, A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering

from University of Georgia Press
Dawn Lundy Martin is scholar, poet, and activist.

Dawn Lundy Martin teaches in the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her PhD in literature at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, with a dissertation titled, “Saying I Am: Contemporary Experimentalism and Subjectivity in Poetry by Myung Mi Kim, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Claudia Rankine, and Harryette Mullen.” Her book, A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering: Poems (U of Georgia Press), was selected by Carl Phillips for the 2006 Cave Canem Book Prize. She has also published two chapbooks: The Undress (belladonna books, 2006) and The Morning Hour (Poetry Society of America, 2003), the latter of which won the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Dawn has published essays and poems in magazines and journals, including Crossroads Magazine, Nocturnes and Callaloo. With Vivien Labaton, she also co-edited The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism (Anchor Books, 2004), a book which both describes and theorizes current activist work in the U.S. She is the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation (New York), an organization designed to “articulate a feminism appropriate to changing culture,” and she is a founding member of The Black Took Collective, an experimental performance art/poetry group. She has taught at Montclair State University, at the New School, and at the Institute for Writing and Thinking, Bard College.

Dawn Lundy Martin’s work is neither language poetry, which rejects the speaking subject, nor strictly lyric, which embraces the speaking “I.” It might best be described as poetry where, in the words of Juliana Spahr, “the lyric meets language”—both an investigation into the opacity of language and the expression of a passionate speaker who struggles to speak meaningfully.

Martin’s poems bend the form into something new, seeking a way to approach the horrific and its effect on the psyche more fully than might be possible in the worn groove of the traditional lyric. Her formal inventiveness is balanced by a firm grounding in bodily experience and in the amazing capacity of language to expand itself in Martin’s hands. She explodes any pretense at a world where words mean exactly what we want them to mean and never more nor less.

The poems are neither gentle nor easy, but they make a powerful case that neither gentleness nor easiness is appropriate in the attempt to contend with the trauma and violence that are an inescapable part of human history and human experience. Martin’s book acknowledges the difficulty but not the impossibility of utterance in trauma’s wake, and it ventures into the unimaginable at many levels, from the personal to the cultural.
Nicole Sealey - Mosaic Magazine

It is the leap, not necessarily the landing, that forces risk and invention. Martin has taken such a leap and, in the process, invented new ways in which to engage and experience language. A Gathering of Matter is an ambitious debut book of poems that does not consult with convention, but rather vehemently argues with it. And, there is something very elegant, ugly, honest, unpleasant and right-minded about Martin's reasoning... With ingenious forms that will test the patience of the most delicate reader of poetry, hers is a persuasive, alternative version void of pretension and artificiality. The authority with which Martin, a newly published poet, writes will astound readers and reviewers alike. And, by the likes of A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering, we can expect many more pleasant surprises from this promising, award-winning poet.
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