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Project Statement

by K. Schlesinger

This is the second publication of Biglieri’s poetry from Cuneiform Press. The first, "Los Books," appeared one year earlier. Like "Los Books," this was not a formal submission to the Press but one of the many poems exchanged between the author and publisher. After Schlesinger proposed a book, he read Tom Raworth’s Muted Hawks (Poltroon Press, 1995), and decided to attempt to produce his first accordion book. Cuneiform was essentially a small press publisher of poetry chapbooks before Reading Keats to Sleep--perhaps the first artists' book from the press. Like Raworth’s poem, Reading Keats to Sleep is best read in concentrated one page units by slowly unfoling the poem. Alternately, it "cuts like a kite still / accelerating" and thrives in the open air of its unfolded form. The printing is sloppy, the typeface is bubbly, the text blue, and the edge was enlivened with a haphazard orange streak of brushed ink. Biglieri thought the size should resemble the small Chestnut Story Books he read as a child, and the profile of Keats came from a biography culled from his mother’s library.

Reading Keats to Sleep

Gregg Biglieri


Gregg Biglieri

type: initiating


born: United States

birth: 1960-10-17

note: note [K. Schlesinger]

Kyle Schlesinger

type: initiating


born: Providence, RI, United States

birth: 1976-12-03

Publication Information

publisher: Cuneiform Press

conception: 2003-01-01
production: 2003-02-05:2003-07-15
publication: 2003-07-15
distribution: 2003-08-01

Aesthetic Profile

postmodern (AAT)
other post-languagePoetry

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: "Reading, Writing, Sleeping" [K. Schlesinger]

content form:
poetry (AAT)
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
chapbook (AAT)
artists' book (local)
fine press (local)
small press (local)

inspiration: Tom Raworth’s Muted Hawks [K. Schlesinger]

related works: "Profession (Idiom 1997), Roma (Beautiful Swimmer, 1999) Los Books (Cuneiform Press, 2002), El Egg (Eclipse, 2003) I Heart My Zeppelin (Atticus Finch 2005) and Sleepy with Democracy (Cuneiform Press, 2006)" [K. Schlesinger]

reception history: On Monday, August 18, 2003 poet and critic Ron Silliman reviewed Reading Keats to Sleep on his blog. Here's what he wrote: I bracketed my characterization of Gregg Biglieri’s Reading Keats to Sleep as “book” in quotation marks the other day not because this little Cuneiform letterpress dandy is in an “accordion” format, but because it’s a relatively short poem – 63 lines – printed in an edition of just 40 copies. If I typed it out in full here, more people would read it in the next three hours than are likely ever to see the published version. But I won’t do that, in part because I have a major bias toward print formats in general and because I want to encourage you to step up and get this super example both of printing and poetry. So instead I will quote just enough to give a taste, the old “first one’s free” come-on: Over and over never now in the know over the real world and over against it reading numbs eyes all thumb the mind’s green nerves — these points flinch as letters now print over sight. This is as fine an example of what Robert Duncan used to characterize as the tone-leading of vowels as I’ve read in years. My ears govern mind’s response, a sign that Biglieri has got it right. The O sounds of the first two stanzas – be sure to hear not only the variation between now and know but also its softness in world – followed by the positionality of U in the third stanza leading past the E tones of the fourth stanza as they give way finally in this sentence to I. Indeed the I sounds are foreshadowed in the third stanza intermixed with the U tones, not just with mind’s but (best yet) eyes, the Y captured as well in this sentence that runs the sequence of vowels the way a champion pool hustler might “run the table.” This is form on steroids. A part of what makes this work so brilliantly to my ear is the redaction of the article from the eighth line, which serves to heighten the stress on numbs in the line before. I’m conscious that not everyone concurs with Ginsberg’s dictum to strike the article when possible, but here Biglieri demonstrates exactly the sort of occasion that fully warrants the device. One might argue that this is all well and good, but didn’t Creeley, Olson, Zukofsky demonstrate the value of enjambment and potential of a linebreak? And it is true that the poem here could not possibly be as ambitious as, say, Biglieri’s El Egg, a booklength work that brings the spirit of Spring and All to the discourse of the post-theory generation, from Agamben to Žižek. Yet, in fact, Biglieri’s project is fundamentally different from that of Zukofsky or the New Americans. The distinction I would draw perhaps will be clearer if I draw a parallel to the history of dance. Creeley, Olson and Zukofsky all strike me as being major choreographers of a particularly fecund period of creative growth – think Balanchine, Cunningham and Graham – where Biglieri’s role in something like Reading Keats to Sleep more closely approximates what Baryshnikov has been doing, especially during his period with the now-disbanded White Oak Dance Project. Baryshnikov is a dancer rather than a choreographer, but with White Oak, he performed an intervention as profound as that of any choreographer, demonstrating that the work, say, of the Judson Church generation, people like Simone Forti or Lucinda Childs, was as physically demanding and amazing as anything in the classic or high modern repertoire. Biglieri lacks Baryshnikov’s cultural capital, perhaps, but Reading Keats has some of the same feel, that of someone demonstrating just exactly how terrific this approach to the language can be, exulting in the process. To work at all – and this is the risk the poem takes on – the process itself has to be at least as good as its masters. This is not unlike the challenge George Stanley confronts with his great early poem “Pompeii” – taking on Duncan puts the poem into a very specific social frame that leaves the younger poet with no margin for failure. My report here is that Biglieri, like Stanley, pulls this off: this is a poem that is wonderful to read – especially aloud – over and over. I keep finding new things in it, line by line, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence. For a book that is, in fact, printed on a single sheet of paper and just 21 stanzas long, this is a remarkably rich and intense project.

Related Documents

manuscript type: mockups

location: other Cuneiform Press