Unknown Pleasures

Listening on repeat to Joy Division's first album Unknown Pleasures (1979), I can't think of a better song than the opening track, "Disorder," whose opening verses are sublimely framed by the loud bass and crisp, machine-like drums:

"I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand.
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
New sensations bear the innocence, leave them for another day.
I've got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away."

An album that works like a self-contained world, with its black cover's pulses from a pulsar arrayed like white mountains rippling down the middle of the sleeve. Ten songs is all one needs for a near-perfect work of art, recorded during two weeks in April 1979. How they color and amplify this city I find myself in and its surrounding forests.


One of the things I do miss from Boston is the readings. Such as the ones Jack Kimball wrote about recently, by John Ashbery at Harvard and Alice Notley at MIT. I've always enjoyed his accounts of readings, with their eye for succinct verse fragments caught by ear in the crowd of lines & people.


Finished reading Stephanie Young's Telling the Future Off (Tougher Disguises, 2005), whose central sequence "The Age of the Mercenary" seems like such an appropriate and terrifying portrait of our televised (war) dread:

"I don't want to write poems
because something terrible will happen.
In the middle of this poem
there is a man entirely without skin.
Another man took it off with a knife."

That sequence transformed the entire book for me when I read it. All of a sudden, the multiple registers she employs seemed to open up and transmit clearly, making me go back to reread the first half again before finishing.


Just like I was also astonished when I came across Stephen Vincent's recent excerpt from his book-in-progress Jack Spicer in Glasgow, a "Letter to Jack Spicer":

"In retrospect it seems exotically strange that I was carrying your book – so secular, yet like a lamp - between and among the various peoples who could no longer trust and/or speak to each other, who, in fact, were about to enter a deadly war. Yet, perhaps, given the history of poetry, these migrations of poems, from one hot spot to another, are not so unique, yet continuously fraught with the potential dangers that might come from a ‘misunderstanding.’ An acceptable poem in one land might kill you another. I was spared, Jack. No one - not even my friends - was in a rush to understand or interpret your poems. Though others come to suffer from not listening - whether to poems or anything else - sometimes it is an invisible code that saves us."

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