Marjorie Welish uses the page—not as a surface upon which to buoy language, but as a core construction of the poem, in visual and kinetic relationship with text. Here, her spatial acuity is tuned to the rhythms of jazz, and that art form’s relationship to modernism. One of our most challenging and rewarding poets, the pleasure is to simply marvel.
Marjorie Welish is the author of The Annotated “Here” and Selected Poems, Word Group, Isle of the Signatories, and In the Futurity Lounge / Asylum for Indeterminacy, all from Coffee House Press. Her honors include the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Fellowship from Brown University, the Judith E. Wilson Visiting Poetry Fellowship at Cambridge University, and two fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has held a Senior Fulbright Fellowship, which has taken her to the University of Frankfurt and to the Edinburgh College of Art. She is now Madelon Leventhal Rand Distinguished Lecturer in Literature at Brooklyn College.
“[Welish’s] writing is marked by the legacies of multiple modernisms and by sly misprisions and recursions, an obsession with logical forms that flip abruptly into their shadow selves.” —BOMB
“Welish’s poetry, like [Thelonious] Monk’s music, is a montage of moving parts in which you’d be wise to expect the unexpected. . . . Welish is sharp about the muddle that is almost everyone’s daily lot.” —Hyperallergic
“PARAPHRASE, HERESY OF. This entry in an encyclopedia on poetics has something to say about poetic language that by definition keeps distant from scientific iteration. But So What So That proposes something else, and throughout are statements and citations as well as swerves from these, grafts and translations as well as swerves from these. Speech turns into writing, and writing turns into sprechstimme. Here are new paths for the mind; for the voice, possibilities that no one has heard paraphrase. So What So That extemporizes on the question: What is the same?” —Aaron Kunin
“Marjorie Welish’s So What So That is at once meditative and noisy, a charting of the obstinate continuum of consciousness and a scattergraph of words and phrases assembled—as in the music of one of her poem’s subjects, Iannis Xenakis—stochastically, open to chance and never to be predicted. These poems are also synesthetic, throwing ‘flatted fifths into the kiln,’ which could suggest a ‘fragmented’ subject in postmodern parlance but, in fact, expresses the unique collusion of color, tone, and text—the distinctive klangfarbe—of Welish’s sensibility. Finally, these poems are engaged—the ethics of art, politics, and language comprises the binding undertone—and though ‘difficult’ at first, So What So That is a tour of a mind enviably open to everything but ‘negatively’ (in Keats’s sense) skirting conclusion.” —Brian Kim Stefans