My critical work centers on twentieth-century poetry and art but frames it within histories that extend back, at times, to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I’m interested in how texts and art objects mediate, transform, and disrupt (rather than simply “reflect”) the cultural and social possibilities of their moments. My first critical book, Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie (2006), theorized O’Hara’s version of coterie writing as a paradoxically progressive mode that allowed him to reformulate kinship structures both within his immediate social world and within literary history. My second book, Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics (2013), traced a new history of location-specific poetry and art from Williams and Olson to Baraka, Snyder, Smithson, Mayer and Robertson. It argued that working in literal locations or fields allowed these writers and artists new ways to contest how these places were represented in disciplinary fields—from travel writing and ethnography to history and urban planning.
Narrowcast: Poetry and Audio Research (2018) is a site-specific account of recorded postwar American poetry that challenges characterizations of tape as a liberatory hands-free device good for uncoupling bodies from auditory effects. I explore, instead, the non-intentional, and non-human dimensions of recordings (their registration of sites, not just poems) as well as their repressive potential, as demonstrated by surveillance teams monitoring the living rooms and phones of new left poets like Sanders, Ginsberg and Baraka.
New Grounds for Dutch Landscape (2020) argues that the works of Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael and Meindert Hobbema do not so much represent the newly made landscape of seventeenth-century Holland as re-enact, through their facture, both the processes of its reclamation, and ongoing threats to its stability: drainage problems, floods, abrasion and erosion of the ground plane. These low-level dramas of recalcitrant matter allow the Dutch, I argue, to develop a non-instrumental temporality that seeks to undo the more normative time-management strategies developed by history and humanist landscape painting.
Just completed, and forthcoming from Cabinet and Rollo most likely in early 2021, is a work of experimental architecture criticism organized around the Italian bond-villain-esque designer, Carlo Mollino.
I have also edited an issue of the Irish arts and culture magazine Printed Project on the interdisciplinary legacy of conceptualism, and an anthology of poetry, 19 Lines: A Drawing Center Writing Anthology, that emerged from the reading series I curated at The Drawing Center in New York. Since the magazine’s inception in 2000 I’ve been a contributing editor for Cabinet.
My thinking as a writer on contemporary poetry and art comes out of my own work in the field. I’ve published two poetry books, Cable Factory 20 and The Lobe, many chapbooks and pamphlets, two novellas (The Moiré Effect, and The Clifford Chadwick Clifford Collection) and two art books associated with my longstanding collaboration with the sculptor Jimbo Blachly, The Chadwick Family Papers (A Brief Public Glimpse) and Selected Shipwrecks.
I regularly write art catalog essays for museums, including essays on Robert Smithson (DIA), Gerard Byrne (Whitechapel) Paul McCarthy and Louise Bourgeois (De Hallen), Matthew Buckingham (Reina Sophia), Zoe Leonard (DIA), Conrad Shawcross (Ivory Press). Many of these will be reproduced in Specimen Box, a book organized around transformations in the language, context and terms of what used to be called institution critique, as it moved from more distanced and sociological modes of analysis to more immanent forms of recoding associated, often, with enlightenment models of collection and display.
Currently I’m at various stages in composing four critical books—lowercase theory (on theory after high theory), Functional Surplus (on the fantasy life of would-be functional architecture), A Theory of Coterie, a trans-historical study that positions the mode as offering reflexive, anatomizing accounts of poetry’s audience and function usually absent in both lyric and epic, and Placeless Modernism, which questions the relations among, and limitations of, the categories (the subjective interior, the page, language in general, a language in particular, a cosmopolitan center, or a marginal outpost within a national culture) typically used to address the problem of how modern poetry’s claimed locations charge it with meaning.
At NYU I direct the MA program in English, and also serve as faculty advisor for the Organism for Poetic Research, a working group that pursues experimental research in poetics, often framing poetry in relation to neighboring disciplines and conducting events both within and outside academic spaces.