Street Gloss (The Operating System, 2019)
Finalist for the 2019 California Book Award in Poetry
In this book, Brent Armendinger follows the work of five contemporary Argentinian poets into the streets of Buenos Aires, attempting to map the ways a word might be an echo of the city itself. Interested in the surface areas of language and the generative potential of failure in translations, the author follows a set of procedures oriented simultaneously in the lines as well as in the streets of the city, gathering impressions, associations, and language through unpredictable encounters with the place and its inhabitants. Notes from these encounters appear interlaced, here, between the original poems in Spanish and their translations. Featuring poems by Alejandro Méndez, Mercedes Roffé, Fabián Casas, Diana Bellessi, and Néstor Perlongher, and artwork by Alpe Romero.
Have you ever wondered what the translator was thinking while they were busy wondering what the poet they translated was thinking? I have, and these extraordinary uncompromisingly queer poems by Brent Armendinger are the answer. This brilliant somatic meta-form is my new favorite way to read translations.
– CAConrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death
Street Gloss is a glory and a wonder. In it, Brent Armendinger serves both poet and translator, translating the role of the poet into something new and transformative. Five Argentinian poets send Armendinger through the streets of Buenos Aires to retrieve echoes of redoubled meanings and double exposures. At the corner of Calle Bogotá and Calle Viamonte, from Plaza Lavalle to Estación Pichincha, at the corners of Combate de los Pozos and Humberto 1º, at the Parque Costanera Sur and elsewhere throughout the city, the poet translates the impulses of translation into astonishing prose poems. Armendinger unfolds translation itself into a somatic map of the city, he refracts his transect into a radiant witness, he delivers, from the city of Borges and Cortazar a city they’d recognize, a city that awakens within.
– Sesshu Foster, author of City of the Future
In his second collection, Brent Armendinger refracts his translations of Argentinian poets through the lens of Buenos Aires residents who guide him into and around language in an exploded view of a collaborative translation, a polyphonic archive. In this formally inventive collection the translations are masterful, and the definitions that accompany them conjure a deeply-felt current of connection.
– Carmen Giménez Smith, author of Be Recorder and Cruel Futures
is there a method for moving when the mode of locomotion is no longer sure? // ya no movimiento llano, memento mori, momento motor. ¿torpeza al sur de la destreza, bienvenida tropieza y bienaventurada al andar? // the finding of language previously unlost is an architecture of slowing in place, staying to say.
from “future somatics to do list: a love letter to street gloss”
– Jen Hofer, writer, translator and co-founder of Antena Aire
The Ghost in Us Was Multiplying (Noemi Press, 2015)
Finalist for the 2015 California Book Award in Poetry
Where does one body end and another begin? In The Ghost in Us Was Multiplying, Brent Armendinger explores the relationship between ethics and desire, between what is intimate and what is public. Although grounded in lyric, these poems are ever mindful of how language falls apart in us and – perhaps more importantly – how we fall apart in language. Armendinger asks, “What ratio of news and light should a poem deliver?” This book is a continuous reckoning with that question and the ways that we inhabit each other.
To “multiply.” To ” devote.” To “ferment inside a hush.” Brent Armendinger writes through and from the body, recollected [contravened] at all turns by the ferocity of its accompanying landscapes, affinities and the heart itself. ”How else can I survive?” writes the poet, deep inside a book that traces the index of an intense need: the kind of contact that can’t be assuaged by touch alone. I was so interested in this other, longitudinal and “surpassing” touch that happened again and again in a book both measured and dreamed: the “pictogram,” for example, that’s heard rather than seen; the blood that’s mailed “back north” — a “stain, my zero.” What does it mean to encounter a zero — a “stranger” — that doesn’t diminish in repetition, but which strengthens, glitters, hurts to look at directly or feel? Brent Armendinger writes into this quality or “crucial” space with an emotional and soulful approach to the “amniotic” potential of vocabularies, human and otherwise. ”What do the birds think?” I loved this book so much, for what it senses into as much as it expresses: a longing for radical company; studies of water and cosmic flows of all kinds. ”Where will you live now,” asks the poet, “and can you hear it,/the way your voice has changed?” Brent Armendinger is a rare experimental writer who writes deeply and passionately from the soul. I am extremely honored to write in support of his poetry.
—Bhanu Kapil, author of Ban en Banlieu, Schizophrene and Humanimal: A Project for Future Children
I’m full of admiration for Brent Armendinger’s queer lyrics, which bravely convey desire’s atmospheric density and disturbing power through elegant and mysterious figuration. Though these poems tell stories about gay life in the age of AIDS, they’re stories written with a “wet alphabet” capable of rendering the incredibly porous and vulnerable state of the desiring mind. Moving through simile and metaphor, substitution and displacement, these poems portray queer subjectivity as “a double preposition,/a corridor in briefly,/the mind outside the mind in me.” Everywhere in this singular work, language that seems to lead inward instead leads outward. I love Armendinger’s passionate commitment to that paradox. And I love his ambitious central task: “I type a letter to the otherness I call you.”
—Brian Teare, author of Doomstead Days, Companion Grasses, and Pleasure
The poems in Brent Armendinger’s The Ghost in Us Was Multiplying are hushed, as if spoken the morning after a heavy snow. They are also admirably attentive to sadness, breath, and desire. Their speaker laments being “too permeable,” but it’s precisely that translucence that matters here: it makes audible the music of his “almost way of touching,” as well as delivering the sometimes melancholy, perennially essential sound of “how the heart opening always feels.”
—Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts, The Art of Cruelty, and Bluets
Archipelago (Noemi Press, 2009). Out of print.