Despite the dedicatio/warning — “not for everyone” — this book is indeed for everyone. Joe Amato is a straight talker able to weave those tough gossamer gab lines into strands for a dinger of a poetry rope lassoing the facts. The work’s (manu)facture enlivens an endangered species: a poetry of facts, with which he drives a word-stake through the American (wet) dream. Hear, hear him, comrades, read Amato’s hoarse-powered ode for this “Poor dumb oilrigged hydrofracked Fukushima’d bastard / civilization” — though there is nothing oily about his message, because “Wethinks poetry is crude, baby, fundamentally crude.” And needs to be so in/for a country where “we note what strange fruit falls / with supremacist fictions run amok.” This “blues that stays news,” these “Urgencies of some noirceur, police / state tactics…” need a poetry-vérité as we speak of a cinéma vérité and Joe Amato’s eye & ear for these Younighted States — close cousins to Jean Rouch’s hand-held camera — manage to scan an “Earth that at its best is one hell of a / paradise.”
Pierre Joris, author of An American Suite & A Nomad Poetics
“Part novel, part mémoire, part inventory of everything thought and seen in the heterogeneous landscape of the daily life of ‘just another poor bastard who thinks his life is worth a permanent entry in the archive,’ Samuel Taylor’s Last Night lists and leans, careens and lurches, swerves and accelerates through a range of rhetorical shifts of gear as its narrator-protagonist turns his psychic pockets inside out and throws all the small-change detritus and wide-ranging vibrant currency of his mind into full view. The bits and pieces, snippets and quick accounts of this and that and all the rest of public and private activities – these are the things life is made of, and the text’s elaborations are a fast-forward rework of those wonderful trompe l’oeil paintings of the 19th century of ‘the bachelor’s drawer’ or the ‘letter board’ with their ephemera, coins, and other incidentals collaged into an evidence-based portrait of a life brought into focus through explicitly delineated and specific details, the indices and traces of an individual subjectivity forged in dialogue with the social sphere.”
Johanna Drucker, author of Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production
“If there could ever be anything like The Great American Novel, it might look like Big Man with a Shovel: a nesting doll of American myth, working-class memoir; a novel of coming into age, class, and race consciousness, and of transcending these boundaries; an examination of how bigotry, the working poor and the working privileged are represented and marketed, as well as an exploration of who has the right to tell whose story, and the struggle to do so honestly. Amato spins all of this with an awareness of the forces that bring his own telling into existence. If that sounds like a lot for a slim novel to pull off, it’s because it is – an achievement that shows just how flexible and surprising the novel can be, and how, in the hands of a poet, it may still be the most incisive means we have for examining who we are as individuals and collectively as a society.
“An important book.”
Steve Tomasula, author of VAS: An Opera in Flatland
“The charm and power of Amato’s book is in its mutability. You approach it as a child at night chasing a firefly into the woods. Just when you think you’ve got it, it’s blinking over there, elsewhere. When you do finally trap it, it illuminates the whole dark dome that has swelled around your narrative pulse. Amato’s text moves easily through working-class narration, American folklore, high academic palaver, war narrative, editorial splashback, history and ephemera, in an intelligent, erudite, and passionate novel. Read it and be reassured, though not.”
Steve Katz, author of Creamy & Delicious
FINALIST – 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year in the Autobiography/Memoir Category
“Joe Amato’s Once an Engineer is an amazing display of stylistic range: on the one hand, a kind of writing so direct, blunt, and even brutal that it succeeds in the difficult art of erasing itself as art; on the other hand, a writing of high literary self-awareness and sophistication that won’t let us forget that there is no exit from writing. In either register, a great pleasure.”
Frank Lentricchia, author of The Sadness of Antonioni
“Riveting from beginning to end, Amato’s accounting of the small, opportunistic, almost haphazard moments that change the course of one’s life is both funny and wise.”
Michael Joyce, author of Paris Views
“In a jam, the poet packs his own signals, jams sound against the grain of sense and words against the wall of the margins, jamming with both the message in the bottle and the bottleneck of its messy (distorted by time) arrival. ‘Did you say something tomorrow?’ Think feedback, think big guitar god solo, and fasten your eyes and ears to a book that’ll belt you. Amato plays his urgent material ‘just for kicks’ and ‘for keeps,’ and this absolutely fearless and volatile mix of clowning and erudite commitment gives his work a life like nobody else’s. Breaking rules we might not have been aware of (or alert to our allegiance to), Pain Plus Thyme is a hard-hitting, clear-eyed critique of culture, as well as a ‘romp’ through preserves both political and personal. Did I say that it’s good? It’s fucking awesome.
“‘Careful, mes amis – hijinks ahead.'”
Laura Mullen, author of Dark Archive
“Amato gives us irrepressible ruminations, flash narratives, verbal collages. At times they seem to be struggling to rise off the printed page into our simulated 3D, stereo, holograph world, but then they recoil from it with speedy wit and righteous indignation, in a weave of rhetorics designed to ward off the 21st century’s demons.”
Anselm Hollo, author of Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: Selected Poems 1965 – 2000
“Pioneering a viable interface between poetic practice and scholarly responsibility, Amato’s is a necessary voice in performative engagement with the labor-intensive underside of academic work. His command of vernacular locutions ranges from impressive to dizzying. Allied to such discerning critical intelligence, such proficiency has the potential to alter – and certainly refresh – the nature of scholarly discourse.”
Jed Rasula, author of The American Poetry Wax Museum: Reality Effects, 1940-1990
“The second ‘Track’ (chapter) of this wild, hilarious, learned, irreverent, energetic, nasty, and touching book is called ‘How a Former Professional Engineer Becomes a Former English Professor.’ And that’s what Industrial Poetics is all about: working-class aspirants for middle-class ‘professional’ goodies, academic and journalistic hypocrisies, community failures, and the general all-around mayhem we experience at the turn of the twenty-first century. A collage of techniques from anaphoric verse to slangy dialogue, from pop song to scholarly reference, Industrial Poetics will make you laugh and sometimes cry with exasperation. Can life on the assembly line and in the ivory tower really be this absurd? Answer, oh yes, and then some.”
Marjorie Perloff, author of Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century
“1. Buy it.
2. Listen up.
4. Buy a copy for a friend.
5. Write a book like this.
6. Industrial Poetics is da bomb.
7. Because the taste is what counts.”
Charles Bernstein, author of Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions
“‘An ingenious gathering of poignant leapfrogging … a muscular memorializing … a sly haunting.’ This is the book that’s everything Amato says it is and is not. It bounces on water, refuses to be paraphrased, and invites itself to dinner. Buy it by the case while there’s still time.”
Cole Swensen, author of Goest
“Bookend sets the stage for a new kind of writing.”
Marjorie Perloff, author of Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary
“Joe Amato’s passionate, acrobatic, and audacious engagement with the limits of discursiveness aims to repixelate our reception of virtual culture. Like a test pattern coming from just beyond the Gutenberg Galaxy, Bookend’s static is a call for us to readjust our sets.”
Charles Bernstein, author of All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems
“Situated somewhere between the world of print and cyberspace, Amato’s Bookend is an amazing read – fast, provocative, learned, hypertextual, fun.”
Gail E. Hawisher, coauthor of Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979-1994: A History
“This is a difficult book aware of its joys; a joyful book aware of its difficulties.”
Michael Joyce, author of Was
“For most of this century poetry has been coy about speaking its mind, and there have been persistent rumors that poetry has nothing to say, that it is a great former of forms but silent. Amato’s poetry speaks, and it is important that we listen.”
Don Byrd, author of The Great Dimestore Centennial
(Symptoms is now available directly from the author.)