Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Josh Russell's favorite book of 2010

Posted By on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Josh Russell
  • Josh Russell
We asked our favorite Atlanta writers to tell us about their favorite books of 2010. All week long, we'll be running their comments. Josh Russell's novels are Yellow Jack and My Bright Midnight. He teaches at GSU and will soon live in Decatur.

The book I enjoyed most in 2010 I read at the year's very end: Joshua Harmon's The Poughkeepsiad (Greying Ghost Press, $7.50, handmade, edition of 75).

I've been a fan of Joshua Harmon’s writing ever since reading his 2007 novel Quinnehtukqut. My admiration was amplified when in 2009 he published his first book of poems, Scape, and it’s been cranked up even more by his new Greying Ghost Press chapbook The Poughkeepsiad. The poems in this little book benefit from what makes all of Harmon’s work exciting: exacting attention to language and form that allows him to move from prose poems like this one, in which he paints a Poughkeepsie panorama with a rolling, uninterrupted accumulation of details:

As blackened snow retreats from curb and gutter, signs of color in leaf litter: blue of Pepsi can, yellow of winter aconite. In the road, crows unravel the intestines of a pulped squirrel. The jagged semiwindows of the Luckey-Platt building reflect a semi-sunset. Good Friday, and christian boys, toothmarks on their arms, wrestle in a muddy side yard.

to verse in which he deftly employs line breaks to create a tone at once profound and pseudo-profound:

To Shop-Vac the sidestreet
of one’s grass clippings
is to say I am dispossessed
of a deeper fortitude
with which I might lose
track of the beam or the bank
supporting the idea
of deliverance from myself
and other, similar errors


It's Harmon’s ability to celebrate the mundane until it becomes marvelous that makes this book so fun to read: Poughkeepsie’s dingy streets and underpasses gleam with a weird beauty in his poems. The Chamber of Commerce needs to write Joshua Harmon a thank-you note.

The Poughkeepsiad is exciting on its own, but it's also thrilling as a teaser for Joshua Harmon's forthcoming full-length collection, Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie, which won the 2010 Akron Poetry Prize and will be published in January. I'm betting Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie will be my pick for best book of 2011.

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