“In [Moten's poetry], he gathers the sources running through his head and transforms them into something musical, driven by the material of language itself. The poem ‘all topological last friday... [continued in Reviews below]”—David Wallace, The New Yorker
Poems that play in the sonic texture of discourses
The Little Edges is a collection of poems that extends poet Fred Moten’s experiments in what he calls “shaped prose”—a way of arranging prose in rhythmic blocks, or sometimes shards, in the interest of audio-visual patterning. Shaped prose is a form that works the “little edges” of lyric and discourse, and radiates out into the space between them. As occasional pieces, many of the poems in the book are the result of a request or commission to comment upon a work of art, or to memorialize a particular moment or person. In Moten’s poems, the matter and energy of a singular event or person are transformed by their entrance into the social space that they, in turn, transform. An online reader’s companion is available at http://fredmoten.site.wesleyan.edu.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“In [Moten's poetry], he gathers the sources running through his head and transforms them into something musical, driven by the material of language itself. The poem ‘all topological last friday evening,’ collected in Moten’s 2015 book, The Little Edges, … unfolds as a chain of references, from free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler to Andrew Marvell. We may not know exactly how we moved from one to the other, but there’s pleasure in getting lost in the dance.”—David Wallace, The New Yorker
“In many ways, Fred Moten’s work is devoted to fugitivity. The stance of his poems is grassroots revolutionary: undoing by means of the everyday, the super-powerful default settings of a corporatized world and thereby reopening the case for what the world of poetry might look and feel like.”—Elizabeth Willis, Boston Review
“Sometimes Moten is riding a wave of sound … It’s like you’re walking by a practice room and someone is improvising on the saxophone, lost to the music, and it’s so clear and haunting and beautiful, you can’t not stop and listen.”—Joy Katz, American Poetry Review
“Moten's work is free speech in the best sense—musical but with heft—and will appeal to those who prefer their poetry to be ‘beyond category’.”—Chris Pusateri, Library Journal
“Moten pays homage to jazz history, poetry history, and the illimitable future of the imagination in works organized less autonomous poems than in page-length lines, blocks of text, and short riffs.”—Publishers Weekly
“In its extravagance, Africa-American music can elicit a heightened kinship with its listeners, by turns sensuous or politicized (sometimes both at once) and suffused with pleasure, joy, deep feeling, resistance. Moten aims to do likewise, using mere words, their sounds, and the visual rhythms of the black-and-white page.”—James Gibbons, Hyperallergic
“Through the interplay of enjambment and parenthesis, the poem pushes us to ponder the appositional relation between making, doing, and having … The Little Edges expands Moten’s concern for poetry’s worlding capacities by placing the reader in the liminal spaces of language and meaning, in the marginal positions suggested by the collection’s title.”—Gerónimo Sarmiento Cruz, Chicago Review
“Moten experiments in ‘shaped prose’ arranging words in rhythmic blocks, shards and in audio-visual patterns.”—Molly McArdle, Library Journal
“With its jazz exuberance, the book has the maverick spirit of one of its heroes, the multi-media artist Ralph Lemon: no hierarchy, no fluidity, no care-ridden pursuit of time, just bold, wild, delirious genius … Moten is intent above all on not being anybody’s ‘Project.’ Anarchronistically whimsical and erotic, his writing consolidates the spirit of jazz well beyond the aim and resources of a Langston Hughes or even an Amiri Baraka. But like Baraka he’s a teacher; he instructs as well as delights.”—Calvin Bedient, Lana Turner Journal
“The poetic vision, or sound, of The Little Edges is remarkable in its range of reference, deep music, surprise at every turn, softness of lyric address coupled with political meditation, and undeniable beauty.”—Maggie Nelson, author of Bluets and The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
“The poems in The Little Edges work the margins of language—the African American vernacular with its powerfully kinetic resources as well as the more elevated and elegant language of the academy—blending and juxtaposing them in ways that result in an utterly fresh poetic idiom.”—M. NourbeSe Philip, author of Zong!
From the Book:
the praline of amusement and.
my cliometric pearl can’t call it.
curve unnumbered. you can’t
ride that long, you can’t turn
that far, that cold coming and
going in and out of snow. the
speed of our washing is blinding
and our devotion is laughing
without a name or song. this is
our music. we’re many hymns
in love with each other
warring out of circle almost,
almost frozen, color become
shape, you put your coat on me.
- Short-Listed for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2016)
Winner of the Guggenheim Fellowship (2016)
Winner of the Roy Lichtenstein Award from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2018)
FRED MOTEN is a professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of Arkansas, Poems (with Jim Behrle), I ran from it but was still in it, Hughson’s Tavern, B Jenkins, The Feel Trio, and the critical works In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition and The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (with Stefano Harney).
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