You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake

Poems by Anna Moschovakis

“Moschovakis shows us how it feels to want answers to certain kinds of questions, to see processes and seek causalities, and then get stuck in hermeneutic circles instead. . . . You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake feels like a book of erasures and extracts: mysterious, haunted, terse.”—Stephen Burt, The Nation

February 2011
6 x 9 | 132 pages
Paperback Original

ISBN: 978-1-56689-250-6.

$16.00

Description

A sharp-witted investigation of love, work, and human responsibility in the age of consumption and hyperexposure.

In a world where we find “everything helping itself / to everything else,” Anna Moschovakis incorporates Craigslist ads, technobabble, twentieth-century ethics texts, scientific research, autobiographical detail, and historical anecdote to present an engaging lyric analysis of the way we live now. “It’s your life,” she tells the reader, “and we have come to celebrate it.”

Awards

2011 James Laughlin Award Winner

Coldfront’s Top 30 Poetry Books of 2011

Reviews

“Anna Moschovakis boldly writes as though Plato had never kicked poets out of the Republic, and in You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, she takes up the citizen’s task of thinking through political and existential issues relevant to lives lived in increasing dependence on internet access and globalization both. Her manner, however, resembles philosophy only in its reliance on a grammar of apparent objectivity: “We start not with theory,” she proclaims, “but with tangible performance,” “with experience, magic/genuine science.” Beneath their controlled and imperturbable surfaces, her poems perform the painful experience of the complicity with injustice that comes with citizenship—while lamenting colonization, opportunism, and capitalism, her poems search themselves for the common root of the urge toward empire, asking: “is it more than you would have done?” At its most critical, this searching reveals the “underbelly” of each of her many subjects: industry leads to waste, labor leads to boredom, wealth leads to guilt, and intimacy leads to misprision. But this ambitious and compassionate book also believes—or hopes—that mindful attention to language might happily lead us elsewhere, toward other economies, other ways of being here together. “One letter at a time we build relationships,” Moschovakis declares, “even though the letter is only a virtual letter and the labor, such as it is, is free.”—Brian Teare, The Academy of American Poets 2011 James Laughlin Award Citation

“[You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake] is easy-on-the-ear, accessible, wise, and funny, such as the observation that ‘The island turned over / is a canoe,’ as well as a series in which a human Anna tells her imaginary robot counterpart things like, ‘human nature has changed since yesterday.’ She takes on the big questions by way of unusual details.”—Bookforum

“Moschovakis shows us how it feels to want answers to certain kinds of questions, to see processes and seek causalities, and then get stuck in hermeneutic circles instead. . . . You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake feels like a book of erasures and extracts: mysterious, haunted, terse.”—Stephen Burt, The Nation

“In the stark, analytical poems that make up You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, Moschovakis assualts materialism, waste, and the internet and repossesses elements of that culture in her poems — Craigslist ads, Wikipedia articles, and MySpace posts — in such a way that proves how demoralizing it can all be. Her style is somewhat similar to Rae Armantrout’s. Both poets are infinitely curious, and not only do they approach each poem with a question, but they often end the poem with a question. There’s rarely a straight answer. Nonetheless, the poems manage to tear down our comfortable preconceptions anyway. . . . I enjoy and appreciate her philosophically bent poetry, her austere use of language, and the sense of violence that charges her poems.”—San Francisco Bay Guardian

“A biting cultural study of our technological habits . . . a forced, and imperative, reconsideration of the world we inhabit and mindlessly exploit.”—Coldfront Magazine

You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake is that rare book capable not only of giving its reader something new, but also of pointing out that which is so salient about our lives we no longer see it. With You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, Anna Moschovakis establishes herself as the T.S. Eliot of the Internet generation.”—H_NGM_N

“Moschovakis’ prizewinning second collection presents poems that are precise, yet surprising in the liberties they take, the paths they follow, the tangents they explore.”—Chronogram

You and Three Others uses the friction between concept and product to examine how the formal exploration of art and capitalism butts up against the limits of what a book can be, like a match striking its box. Through these constraints, Moschovakis cracks open the language of protest, applies pressure, and lets the flame ignite.”—Kenyon Review

“Moschovakis has captured the essence of the poetic enterprise. . . . This is a tremendously exciting book that balances lyrical impulses, family stories, anthropological and historical realities, and metaphysical inclinations. The variety of forms; an astute sense of timing; restraint from excess juxtaposed with exuberance, where appropriate; and the forward motion of an original intelligence at work create an appealing, satisfying, and inspiring set of poems.”—New Pages

You and Three Others never loses focus of its concern with selves, and demonstrates a rare ability to speak convincingly about said selves through a complex web of modes that maintains a lyric voice while simultaneously critiquing the means that voice chooses. That Moschovakis is able to keep the emotional energy alive even as her poems remain unapologetically entranced with the ostensible anti-poetry of the systems she investigates is a contradiction that is as impressive as it is satisfying.”—Hot Metal Bridge

“In her second book of poetry, Anna Moschovakis presents an engaging lyric analysis of the contemporary frameworks people live within. Ideas about choice (and indecisiveness), consumption, comfort, indulgence, and the evolution of collective vocabularies are explored, using the rhetoric of Internet-speak, ethics texts, historical anecdotes, and argument.”—American Poet

You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake might be considered a journal or notebook of sorts, albeit one whose entries have been carefully fitted together so as to create resonances beyond the private, the explicitly political or the lyrical. . . . [T]he pleasure to be found in Moschovakis’s poetry [is] the way she theorizes and reflects on the seemingly immeasurable movements of our broken era. In her books, poetry is enacted as a living, compassionate and dynamic process.”—Galatea Resurrects

“If the title of Moschovakis’s second collection reads like a textbook logic problem, it’s because Moschovakis not only confronts her readers with a series of logical and philosophical dilemmas but also questions the possibility of such investigation. . . . Throughout the book, Moschovakis maintains a strongly clinical detachment even in the face of cultural crisis. Yet if it is cynicism that drives Moschovakis to inhabit structures of capitalism, technology, consumerism, Western philosophy, and religion, the assumption of these various positions nevertheless allows a necessary poetry of critique: her poems subject each of these structures to constant, and troubling, poetic pressure from within.”—Publishers Weekly

“I didn’t believe I could delight in a poetry of cultural critique until I read You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake. Capitalism, clinical definitions of personhood and desire, bloodlust, waste, guilt—the four serial poems in this collection wrangle with issues so big and painful that the mind reels; yet at times I found myself laughing out loud. ‘Death as a Way of Life’ poses the question, ‘Can a grammar kill?’ If it can, I hail Anna Moschovakis as Chief of the New Poetic Army.”—Dodie Bellamy

“Tragedy has its taxonomies—therein lies its beauty, and the beauty of You And Three Others Are Approaching A Lake. Like life, like poetry, like the reworking of the happenstance of language and the random facticity of human eloquence and violence, Moschovakis’ pieces cut into and through the fact of what matters. Like a child’s cry.”—Vanessa Place

“Suddenly I am not afraid of poetry. It’s Moschovakis’s bailiwick now, whose opalescence springboards the revolution we have been waiting for.”—Bob Holman

“Because I am only one reader approaching a lake, and for me, this lake is connected to noise and entanglements of vagus nerves angular and brightly lit, relentless as a sound of information, relentless as the precise and dynamic upturned canoe of information—”—The Rumpus

“If history has been the history of systems that turn persons into functions (human machines), Moschovakis’ poetry is a counter-system whose loving jokes and satiric repetitions reflood machinery with personhood.”—Lana Turner Journal

You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake is witty, thought-provoking, and (for me) impossible to put down.”Loads of Learned Lumber

“The book fairly bristles with bits and pieces: historical figures flash by, then a scrap of dialogue, perhaps, then some found text, then population figures and a résumé, separated by Prisoner’s Dilemma-type interpositions, like ‘A glass of milk / or / a cigarette / but not both.’”—On the Seawall

Brave Little Books, video review


A Brief Essay Inspired by You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake:

Do we need an island or a canoe? Or something else entirely? This book is not going to tell us what we need, nor what to do with what we have. It is going to suggest there are procedures alternative to material conquest—different ways of enacting “free experimentation, trial and error”—without providing instruction. We might choose not to open the big white envelope, but even so the contents of the envelope and their reverberations will inflect the spaces we inhabit. —Jen Hofer

Multimedia

Anna Moschovakis Reads from You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake (Feb. 2011, Coffee House Press) from CoffeeHousePress on Vimeo.

Interview on “Cross Cultural Poetics” with Leonard Schwartz (Episode #228; February 17, 2011)
XCP_232_Moschovakis_2-17-11 complete recording (29:15)