Two New Books from CalArts Critical Studies Alumni

by Guest Blogger Nicholas Katzban

Two new books from CalArts alumni are available, one on sale now, and the other available for pre-order. Diana Arterian’s (Critical Studies MFA 11) Death Centos was published Sept. 1 by Ugly Duckling Presse and Jon Rutzmoser’s (Critical Studies MFA 10) shhhh! it’s poetry, will be published soon by Insert Blanc Press, whose editor and publisher Matthew Timmons graduated from the School of Critical Studies MFA in 2005.

Death Centos, a 20-page chapbook, is a collection of collage poems using the last words of those who have died through either natural causes or otherwise. Divided into two sections, “Last Words of the Dying” and “Last Words of the Condemned,” Arterian has crafted a stirring treatise on issues as varied as the death penalty and the haunting presence text/language can embody in life’s inevitable culmination. Creating a marriage between the ancient poetic form of the “cento” with the somewhat lost art of last words, Arterian’s text is, in the words of poet Mark Nowak, “the penultimate panegyric… a brave and ingenious collection that deserves to be widely read.”

In September, Arterian set out on a book tour, reading in Los Angeles, Oakland, Providence, and the Ugly Duckling Offices in Brooklyn, NY, beginning with an official launch party at Los Angeles’ own, Concord Space. Arterian will be on the road again in December with two dates in Upstate New York and once again Providence. (You can track her reading dates and other news here.)

Meanwhile, Jon Rutzmoser’s shhhh! it’s poetry embodies an altogether other sort of treatise. A rolling, tautological work of linguistic slippage and double entendre, shhhh! it’s poetry seems to combine the best of both conceptual language poetry and the more confessional lyric that has captivated the recent contemporary poetry scene. Rutzmoser’s caustic mix of philosophical extroversion with pathos filled introversion leaves readers with a tough question: How much is true in this seemingly nude strewing of Freudian self-confusion? Are the people and experiences Rutzmoser addresses biographical, completely fictionalized, or somewhere between? It’s a shockingly direct, yet purgatorial work, which author and Critical Studies faculty member Maggie Nelson calls, “a deconstructed joyride splattered with historical and socio-political provocations.”

It’s been a busy few months for Rutzmoser, who, along with Amanda Montei (Critical Studies MFA 11) launched their own press, Bon Aire Projects, with the release of their collaborative work, Dinner Poems. Bon Aire Projects has announced a tentative 2014 release of another collaborative book by Critical Studies faculty member  Theresa Carmody and Vanessa Place of Les Figues Press.

Death Centos can be ordered now from Ugly Duckling Presse. Shhhh! it’s poetry can be preordered from Insert Blanc, with a release date at the end of this year.

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