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Just Saying
Rae Armantrout

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2013 • 120 pp. 6 x 9"

$14.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7521-0
$24.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7299-8

$11.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7300-1

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

No poet gets caustic, or self-critical, or sarcastic, as well as Armantrout, whose quick stanzas—half Twitter, half Emily Dickinson—say a lot about how language, money, love, and... [continued in Reviews below]”—Publishers Weekly

Deft and deeply intelligent poems on the nature of language

In Just Saying, improbable and even untenable speakers are briefly constituted—only to disappear. The result is part carnival, part nightmare. A television pundit’s rhetoric segues into an unusual succulent with writhing maroon tongues. When the world suddenly becomes legible, is that revelation or psychosis? In this book, the voice of the Lord and/or the voice of the security state can come from anyplace. The problem of identity becomes acute. The poems in Just Saying may be imagined as chimeras, creatures that appear when old distinctions break down and elements generally kept separate combine in new ways. Here Armantrout both worries (as a dog worries a bone) and celebrates the groundless fecundity of being and of language.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

No poet gets caustic, or self-critical, or sarcastic, as well as Armantrout, whose quick stanzas—half Twitter, half Emily Dickinson—say a lot about how language, money, love, and memory can fail us, and in very little space. This collection, in particular, might give readers still on the outside of Armantrout’s brilliance a set of new ways in.”Publishers Weekly

“Armantrout explores existential questions with rare economy…. Here the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet scrutinizes marketing slogans, corporate catchphrases, and metaphysical quandaries.”Carolyn Alessio, Booklist

“…Armantrout is on the lookout for the live-wire of the moment, the chatter of the now. She overhears, she jots, she scans. … ‘See something, say something,’ a poem begins. It’s Armantrout’s credo, her ars poetica. Everything she sees becomes a poem—a suspicious package.”—Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune

“She assembles images, thoughts and sensations–things seen, heard, overhead–and finds inconspicuous patterns in them, never losing the abiding sense that saying anything might mean pretending to know too much. Yet many poems lead to overpowering revelations that will be lost on those only committing to a cursory read. … Rae Armantrout’s full bibliography is important and possibly essential. But it seems to matter that we don’t ignore the incredibly high level at which she is currently writing. If there are few variations in style, one might remember that her poems are new like every day is new: as long as the world is changing, there is fodder.”—John Deming, Cold Front

“This is a poetry that values music in the sense of a John Cage and not a Mozart—where themes are not necessarily expected to be developed or recapitulated, where what has come before does not play much of a role in what comes next, where the out-of-sync is given as much space in the composition as the in-sync. … I feel as though I could spend many more paragraphs exploring possibilities for the meaning of this one poem, and that’s what makes Just Saying a very worthwhile book. Its exploratory poetics will get you exploring too. It’s a poetry, primarily, of the mind. … Just Saying is a useful book. It sets one thinking. It destroys common patterns of thought, pretensions of knowledge, empties us of our self-importance. It even, at times, places us on the edge of beauty, puts it on our tongues to taste it, then pulls it away before we can savor it. I feel better prepared now, but for what, I just can’t say.”N.S. Boone, Southern Humanities Review

“Armantrout articulates across her career all of the concerns of language poetry: postmodern culture, self-reflexivity, the materiality of language, semiotics and deconstruction, disruption of the symbolic order, and oppositional politics inherent in the interruption of the language of seamless ideological discourse.”Ross Leckie, The Fiddlehead

“Armantrout's poems… advance through precise, almost Dickinsonian lines, where prolixity is skillfully trimmed down to reveal taut and muscular lines and stanzas: minimal words, maximum weight.”—Matthew Gagne, Jacket 2

“The technique of construction by which she prefers to give wholeness to poems is to isolate a word, a bit of jargon or cliché, and move it further and further outside of its expected usage. The multiple appearances of this ordinary word run a thread through several discrete episodes. You often don't notice the thread until she pulls it taut, at which point it becomes a spine. . . . This effect is characteristic and unique. It can take any content. It can even take any tone. It can be teasing, curious, threatening, knowing, sarcastic, paranoid, proud, gentle. The feeling it names, however, is consistent. Not ecstatic or epiphanic, but something more like what Archimedes meant when he shouted, Eureka!”—Aaron Kunin, Lana Turner

“Rae Armantrout’s poems roll out in gentle bursts. They are short, often funny, but also deeply felt works written in plain, direct language, with unusual line breaks that keep your attention on their singular rhythm and pointed, poignant imagery.”—Robert Ham, The Portland Mercury

From the Book:


Your violins pursue
the downhill course
of streams,

even to their wild
curls and cowlicks.

To repeat
is not to catch.


Consider the hummingbirds,
how they’re gussied up

and monomaniacal
as the worst (or best)
of you.

Consider the bright,
streamlined emergency
they manifest.


My leaves form bells,
small cups of sex,

overweening, unstoppered.

Not one of you
with all your practice

is so extravagantly

RAE ARMANTROUT is a professor of writing in the Literature Department at the University of California at San Diego, and the author of eleven books of poetry, including Money Shot, Versed, Next Life, and Veil: New and Selected Poems.

Praise for Money Shot
“Armantrout has the ability to magnify the merest of words into an essay. True to the postmodern tradition, she gives no answer to the provocative questions she raises. Instead Money Shot offers sure proof of one thing: A well-wrought book of poems.”
—John Herbert Cunningham, Rain Taxi

“…There are a lot of possibilities. Which is exciting, and frightening. … Indeed, the charged openness of language is itself enough to power these poems. … Let’s play a game, Armantrout seems to say. This game has to do with language, and either it will destroy us or leave us alone on a sunny day. Take your pick.”
—Nick Sturm, Laurel Review

Praise for Versed
“Rae Armantrout is the most philosophical sort of poet, continually seeking in her collections to summon and surmise the contemporary character of subjective experience and, further, to test the limits of knowledge. … Short lines in brief poems are polyvalent in both voicing and implication, inviting multiple readings … yet pleasure arises in contemplating both the options and the paradox.”
—Tom Griffin, Bookforum

“Written under a diagnosis of cancer (‘I just called / to fill you in’), Versed is a major and moving addition to a life’s work in many-angled reflection.”
—Jeremy Noel-Tod, Times Literary Supplement

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

Wed, 17 Oct 2018 11:41:52 -0500