2013: Reads of the Year – Henry King

The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich (2005, House of Anansi Press)

This book of interviews radically extends the work Illich became famous for in the 1970s (Deschooling Society, Tools for Conviviality, Medical Nemesis). Illich argues for understanding western modernity not as a turning away from but a perversion of the message of the Gospels. Illich’s thought is politically uncategorisable (anarcho-Catholic? reactionary Foucauldian?), painstakingly historicised, and warmly argued.

Gabriel Levin The Maltese Dreambook (2008, Anvil)

In the title-sequence of this collection, Levin explores the Mediterranean island in the footsteps of Coleridge, Caravaggio, a medieval Cabbalist, and a dead friend, in prose and varied verse-forms. As well as short poems set in his adopted Levant, Levin also translates the great pre-Islamic Mu’allaqa (‘hanging ode’) of Imru al-Qays – a highpoint in the desperately-needed cultural dialogue Levin is carrying out almost unrecognised.

 J.T. Welsch Waterloo and Appendix: Pruitt-Igoe (2012, Like This Press; 2013, Lulu)

These two pamphlets explore Welsch’s native Missouri, from the small town of Waterloo to the failed Pruitt-Igoe public housing project. Waterloo retells family and local history in irregularly-rhymed sections of five couplets, illustrated with reproductions of vintage photos and public records; Appendix quotes and manipulates secondary sources. Happily crossing the line drawn in the sand between conceptual and traditional poetry, Welsch is more concerned with making beautiful, thoughtful works of art than with posturing and partisanship.

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