Who is the Poet What is the Book


Last night Alex read from his book written/drawn/sanded/soaked while floating down Utah’s Cataract Canyon. The event was sponsored by 15 Bytes, Utah’s Arts Magazine and featured the winner and two finalists for this year’s poetry prize. Katherine Coles (Utah’s former Poet Laureate) and Alex were the finalists and Paisly Rekdal (Utah’s current Poet Laureate) was the winner. The Printed Garden Bookshop hosted the event. The poets read profound and beautiful and unsettling and hilarious works.

There was time for questions, one of which was about what work was forthcoming. The two Laureates each mentioned books that would appear in the next two years. Alex answered that he was waiting for a midwife to help him deliver his next book. I knew what he meant. He has often spoken with me about the trouble he has submitting work.

Years ago I acted as Alex’s midwife, gathering and submitting 100 of his poems that eventually were published by Signature Books under the title Various Atmospheres. Since then, books published by Dream Garden Press (Poetry is Wanted Here), Elik Press (Sonosuono), Signature Books again (Some Love), and Saltfront (Who Is the Dancer What Is the Dance) have appeared. Those five books represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

In the last year or so Alex has given me more than 10 new chapbooks, some running to more than 100 pages. He designs the books himself and prints them in editions of 20 or 30. They are often scanned reproductions of his notebooks, although he inserts typed poems where the handwriting is difficult to decipher. Others are collections of poems and drawings from various notebooks. Drawings often include words (or is it words that include drawings?).

These are the most recent gifts from Alex:


Vomit questions on the answering mind is a collection of poems like this one written the evening of September 7, 2004:


Alex has often described himself as a mystic, but if this poem is any indication, he is that most rare of the breed: the self-doubting mystic. Poems like this one lead me to believe every word he writes.

Drawings in the volume include one of what I take to be another rare breed: an ironic devil (Goethe’s Mephistopheles belongs to this species as well).


The volume titled Clairefontaine (that was the brand of notebook, the name stamped on the cover) includes these two pages:


For a reader, images of the poet at work on a notebook page reveal the improvisational nature of the work, poetry and images growing out of a vast store of experience like a jazz improvisation out of the musician’s mastery of scales.

Sound Mind (this is, after all, the Sonosopher at work) is a retrospective especially interesting to readers who have seen/heard these works in performance. These two pages from the work “For the House,” for instance, include notes for the performance> Presto! Crescendo!

be mine

So while Alex says he is waiting for the midwife, I would note she has been a frequent visitor over the last few decades.



Andy Hoffman, publisher of Elik Books, wrote that he and Alex are planning for a second volume of Sonosuono.

And this photo by the owner of The Printed Garden from the discussion afterward:


About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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4 Responses to Who is the Poet What is the Book

  1. I am sitting here covetting your Alex Caldiero collection. I keep checking on Ken Sanders website for new ones that I don’t have that I can also afford.


  2. Pingback: Notebooks | THE GOALIE'S ANXIETY

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