Not Even Then, the debut collection by Brian Blanchfield, introduces a poetry both compressed and musically fluid, beseechingly intimate and oddly authoritative. Blanchfield conducts readers through a unique, theatrical realm where concepts and personages are enlivened into action: Continuity, Coincidence, Symmetry, and Shame keep uneasy company there with Marcel Duchamp and Johnny Weissmuller, Lord Alfred Douglas and "Blue Boy" Master Lambton, Juliet’s Nurse and Althusser’s Moses.
With its kinked and suspensive language, Not Even Then draws on the lyric tradition, even as it complicates that tradition’s dualism of self and other. Likeness is always under investigation in the book’s irreducible arrangements of alterity. From "Red Habits": "I imagine the interferences explained / in don’t-think-twice and reverse advice / and by habits for both head and breast / hers and hers as red as mine at chamber check. / We are each herself a further interference." No answer rests unquestioned in its turn; even the book title’s cynicism is challenged by a poetics alive to possibility, where Possibility is impetuously, ecstatically companionable. "The listener you are," writes Blanchfield, "the less alone."
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"'Sifting subtext,' Brian Blanchfield infuses measure with feral ways, blandishments with subtle bafflement. Not since Ashbery's early poetry has so much eloquence shown so little pity ('We have our no, libido, go'). Blanchfield speeds up his vision to catch the flickers in what others tend to see as a continuum the void-gaps of difference in likeness, the exclusive 'invitational' in the "open." Magnificently unappeased ('Not in thirteen / new ways to play can the one that's wild be reconciled'), Not Even Then makes urbanity and originality go round and round together in one astonishing poem after another. Calvin Bedient
"The infinite prospect of cityscape and water route surrounds us in these poems where 'sight is what we are within.' Blanchfield's vigorous language, his kinetic syntax and his captivating gift for assembling a new world out of surprising images make Not Even Then one of the lustiest, most electric reads since Hart Crane's White Buildings. In his own words, 'here is a craft. The kind to ride.' A most enjoyable ride indeed." D. A. Powell
"Lively, intelligent questions of scale and position of where (& who) the self is vis-a-vis truth animate the unsteady subjectivity of Brian Blanchfield’s first collection. In gorgeous poems whose slanted insights seem earned and unarguable, 'meaning’s warning' is delivered just in time. 'We said beauty should have to do with us,' writes Blanchfield: his poems are admirably real and extraordinarily rewarding encounters." Laura Mullen
"Here from a poet whose language is generous beyond its own constraint is the welcome news that poetry can expand without being stretched thin, go undeceived without losing its lovingness, and even redeem the future that some of us, otherwise, did not want to enter." Douglas Crase
Brian Blanchfield teaches in the B.F.A. creative writing program at Pratt Institute of Art. His poems have appeared in such publications as Fence, Ploughshares, Slope, and Volt. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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