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My Vocabulary Did This to Me
The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer
Jack Spicer; Peter Gizzi, ed.; Kevin Killian, ed.

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2008 • 508 pp. 10 illus. 6 x 8"

$27.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7090-1
$39.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-6887-8

$22.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7109-0

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“As a measure of our historical distance from Spicer’s personality, a new generation of editors, the poets Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian, moves beyond the Spicer ‘legend’ in order to present the full range of his poetry to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with his work.”—Zach Finch, Boston Review

An essential collection of a highly original American poet

In 1965, when the poet Jack Spicer died at the age of forty, he left behind a trunkful of papers and manuscripts and a few copies of the seven small books he had seen to press. A West Coast poet, his influence spanned the national literary scene of the 1950s and ’60s, though in many ways Spicer’s innovative writing ran counter to that of his contemporaries in the New York School and the West Coast Beat movement. Now, more than forty years later, Spicer’s voice is more compelling, insistent, and timely than ever. During his short but prolific life, Spicer troubled the concepts of translation, voice, and the act of poetic composition itself. My Vocabulary Did This to Me is a landmark publication of this essential poet’s life work, and includes poems that have become increasingly hard to find and many published here for the first time.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

My Vocabulary Did This To Me … These final words serve as an apt title for Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian’s wonderfully edited Spicer collection, the first thorough gathering of the poet’s extraordinary and challenging writing to appear since the ‘70s.”—Erik Davis, Bookforum

“You finish My Vocabulary Did This to Me feeling you’ve come in contact with an original artist and a genuine one, a writer who is, to borrow from Wordsworth, ‘fierce, moody, patient, venturous, modest, shy’. You also finish the book thinking that these poems are ready to find a new audience.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“His vocabulary did indeed do this to him, but perhaps with this handsome edition, love and reappraisal will let him go on.”—Edward Champion, The Los Angeles Times

“Spicer is an interesting poet on several levels, all of them deep and rich with deposits that reward an earnest dig. He is, I think, on a par with Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams in grilling the elaborative infrastructure of how we draw or are drawn to specialized conclusions with the use of metaphor, and it is to his particular brilliance as a lyric poet, comparable to Frank O'Hara … that the contradictions, competing desires and unexpected conundrums of investigating one's verbal stream are made comprehensible to the senses, a joy to the ear. No one, really no one wrote as distinctly as the long obscure Spicer did, and editors Gizzi, Killian, and publisher Wesleyan Press are to be thanked for restoring a major American voice to our shared canon.”—Ted Butler, Oyster Boy Review

“The book is one of the most important volumes of poetry published in the past 50 years. The poems are simply wonderful, and Spicer’s mature work is some of the best ever written by an American.”—Ron Silliman

“An epic of irritation by a poet who professed no epic intent, the collected poetry of Jack Spicer is essential reading. Acerbic, wary, aggressive, aggrieved, it rides and puts it own spin on a recovering (would-be recovering) romanticism, a signal travail informing twentieth-century poetics.”—Nathaniel Mackey

From the Book:

Hell is this:
The lack of anything but the eternal to look at
The expansiveness of salt
The lack of any bed but one’s
Music to sleep in.
—from “A Book of Music”


Winner of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Award for Poetry (2009)
Winner of the American Book Award (2009)

Author Photo

JACK SPICER (1925–1965) published books including After Lorca (1957), Billy the Kid (1959), and The Holy Grail (1962). PETER GIZZI is a poet and author of numerous books, including The Outernationale (2007), who lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts. KEVIN KILLIAN is a poet, novelist, critic, and playwright living in San Francisco.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 11:56:02 -0500