The Vestiges

By Jeff Derksen

The Vestiges
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Based on the experience of city life, The Vestiges moves across the uneven geography of the present, linking historical moments when quarters of cities were squatted, when social change boiled and the future was up for grabs. In the context of our precarious present, the poem ... Read more


Overview

Based on the experience of city life, The Vestiges moves across the uneven geography of the present, linking historical moments when quarters of cities were squatted, when social change boiled and the future was up for grabs. In the context of our precarious present, the poem “The Vestiges,” around which the book is built, “sets out to explore / what happens / to humans when they are reduced / to things by other humans. ” In asking this question, “The Vestiges” is a long poem engaged with modernist poems that move from the particularities of everyday life to enduring and unanswered political and cultural questions. Covering a wide terrain of research, the other serial poems in the book mine various texts, from the Craigslist “auto parts” section to Jane Jacobs, from Marx to Marcuse, and from historical accounts of cities to contemporary real-estate promotions, in order to build up an eclectic atlas of this unstable moment. In terms of contemporary poetics, The Vestiges enters into dialogue with modernism, conceptual writing, and post-conceptual art.

Jeff Derksen

Jeff Derksen is a founding member of Vancouver’s writer-run centre, the Kootenay School of Writing, and has worked as an editor of Writing magazine. As an editor, Derksen also organized “Disgust and Overdetermination: a poetics issue,” for Open Letter and “Poetry and the Long Neoliberal Moment” for West Coast Line. His poetry and critical writing on art, urbanism, and text have been published in Europe and North America, including in the anthologies East of Main and Verse: Postmodern Poetry and Language Writing. His Down Time won the 1991 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and a selection from Dwell – “Host Nation, Host Society” – was nominated for inclusion in the anthology The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative North American Poetry: 1993. Formerly a research fellow at the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the City University of New York, Derksen currently teaches in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. He also collaborates on visual art and research projects (focusing on urban issues) with the research collective Urban Subjects.

Reviews

“As all that is solid melts into liquidity, Jeff Derksen’s poetry provides footholds of humor, criticism, stealth analysis, and wild observation to address neoliberalism’s violent wake. With ‘expansive authority’ he reveals Marx as teacher, as worker, as conversationalist, and exposes what’s silhouetted in the glare of vagabond capitalism. The Vestiges is a beautiful, compelling, and even dangerous book. ”
– Cindi Katz

“a masterful collection of long research poems, two of which have wildly incongruent commitments to having a knowable speaker … In the end, Derksen puts the reader in the vestiges of hope. ”
Canadian Literature

“Today the world exploded. Drones fell from the sky onto random targets, news stations went black, pepper spray burned our eyes. Who’s up for documenting the new rubble? For those of us hunkered down in the poetry corner of the universe, Jeff Derksen has been our man. He sits behind a common desk of particulars as an architect of data: distilling facts, designing hard poems that trace our desperate history of greed. These are The Vestiges and, indeed, ‘the idea of the north just shifted north. ’”
– Robert Fitterman

“Today the world exploded. Drones fell from the sky onto random targets, news stations went black, pepper spray burned our eyes. Who’s up for documenting the new rubble? For those of us hunkered down in the poetry corner of the universe, Jeff Derksen has been our man. He sits behind a common desk of particulars as an architect of data: distilling facts, designing hard poems that trace our desperate history of greed. These are The Vestiges and, indeed, ‘the idea of the north just shifted north. ’”
– Robert Fitterman

“As all that is solid melts into liquidity, Jeff Derksen’s poetry provides footholds of humor, criticism, stealth analysis, and wild observation to address neoliberalism’s violent wake. With ‘expansive authority’ he reveals Marx as teacher, as worker, as conversationalist, and exposes what’s silhouetted in the glare of vagabond capitalism. The Vestiges is a beautiful, compelling, and even dangerous book. ”
– Cindi Katz

“a masterful collection of long research poems, two of which have wildly incongruent commitments to having a knowable speaker … In the end, Derksen puts the reader in the vestiges of hope. ”
Canadian Literature

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