Jennifer Scappettone, a poet, translator, and purveyor of visual stills and prose, is the author of the chapbooks Thing Ode / Ode oggettuale (La Camera Verde, 2008), translated into Italian with Marco Giovenale, Err-Residence (Bronze Skull, 2007), Beauty (Is the New Absurdity) (dusi/e kollectiv, 2007), Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice (Columbia University Press, 2014), and Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, editor and translator (University of Chicago Press, 2012). She was guest editor of the feature section of Aufgabe 7, devoted to contemporary Italian experimental poetry, and is at work on a range of translations from Italian, with a focus on the “Babeling deeply felt” of the postwar polyglot author Amelia Rosselli. Talks and readings are available for download at her PennSound author page. She currently teaches at the University of Chicago.
There are an infinite number of ways to read From Dame Quickly—its range of styles/methods recalling Black Mountain inspired composition by field, collage poems combining blurred photographs and Burroughs-like cut-ups of her own poetry, prose poems combining the philosophical nuance of Lyn Hejinian and the irreverent humor of Bruce Andrews, its puns and neologisms working Joyce’s encyclopedic and politicized hijinks, its dedication to reworking philosophical concepts through crazed and incessant linguistic investigations recalling John Ashbery and [Jennifer Scappettone’s] own interest in Italian poetry of research (see Aufgabe #7)… [From Dame Quickly] is an aporetic glossolalia of defacements, distortions, and extensions of language from the level of the word to the sentence to the poetic sequence ‘Whose deadline doesn’t thin.’
Quickly: it’s neither fish nor flesh, Falstaff nor Faust. ‘I became again, I learned to taste.’ Translation, collage, prose poem, lyric invention, periodic convolute, imploded syntax & discursive veers: Scappettone’s richly textured, multifoliate poetry is an intellectual and aesthetic extravaganza that defies genre in its commitment to structural process and social materiality.
The textual strategies within From Dame Quickly save us from the market’s ‘ever easier’: (d)eluding the ‘spikes of activity,’ the claims and mad (human) costs of value, and diseases themselves turned to commodity, as Falstaff says. Disorientation and fragmentation are guerilla warfare: they are the ultimate movements to impress upon the net of references and texts setting free and affirming the untold (always told) in Western history—the way it is now, as it wounds, is wounded, and regards us.
In her much-awaited-breath-bated first book, Jennifer Scappettone has found the perfect guise from which to rule her invented gorgeous and why supra-sensuous ambit— Dame Quickly, whom Scappettone (turn)styles a vatic ‘pre-Pandoran’ ‘she-port’ ready to ‘kick the alphabeted mass.’ In Hank IV, D.Q.’s laser-sharp raunch divined use for fish, flesh, and man; under the auspices of Scappettone’s sprezzatura and witz, she’s ready-set and on her Marx, back with a ‘cinkangle-tongue / redubbed’ to ‘contango’ ladies, ‘phellus,’ and bad apples’ ‘badablings.’ Then again, Dona Quickly may be the whole netherside of the ‘M-16able’ hetero-commodity void revealed, through the crystalline indeterminacy of ‘Bull Desuetude,’ the near-pants-wettingly irreverent series ‘Derrida is Dead,’ the palimpsestic visual scores of ‘Illocatable Hours,’ among other panoptical utter gems. If you’re looking to gate-crash with site-specificity, this auratic book can cure you of the burning quotidian tertian (Falstaff’s disease (courtesy W.S.)). No matter your poison, you’ll want to peruse From Dame Quickly to see ‘Womankind—the everlasting irony of the community’ (as Scappettone quotes from Hegel)—give ‘Venice’s eff-you’ to the masculinist global oikos and realpolitik. ‘Sup on it!'
The work in this wondrous first major book by Jennifer Scappettone has a phenomenal—an excitatory—presence, the presence of action, not thing. This book is a matrix of polytemporal energy, a linguistic carnival, ribald and resounding—’a most implicit maze.’ The syntactic cadences of the poetry carry enormous semantic content, distributing but also timing meaning, in ways akin to those that one finds in the late works of Henry James, for example, or in Robert Creeley’s writing. But the language of From Dame Quickly—the lexical and linguistic turns of logic and sediments of lore—is Scappettone’s own. It invents absolutely contemporary, 21st-century archaicisms appropriate to erotic play or to ripostes against unjust governance. Subversive puns, seductive sound plays abound; references spin. Lexical pop-ups obtrude—terms or phrases that jump into view from some part of the terrain that is familiarly known as ‘out of context’ but is in truth part of that all-context which is almost the entire human landscape. And that is the scope of this book—every place local and almost but never quite—this is an anti-totalizing project—entire. This is a vast and brilliant book.