[11/14/23] Coolidge, Clark: The Crystal Text
City Lights Publishers, paperback
Publication Date: November 14, 2023
Publisher Marketing: Clark Coolidge's book-length meditation on a crystal--long considered a masterpiece of American avant-garde poetry--returns in a new edition.
"No other poet ever has so exquisitely, and sometimes also turbulently, written sheer sonic wonder into poetry."--Lyn Hejinian, author of My Life and My Life in the Nineties
In the summer of 1982, Clark Coolidge received an unexpected gift of a crystal; small, clear, entirely unexceptional, the crystal nonetheless provoked the poet into writing what has long been considered his masterpiece, The Crystal Text (1986). A durational poem composed over the course of 10 months, in daybook-like entries of varying length, The Crystal Text is multifaceted and elusive, constantly interrogating itself. Is it a meditation on its titular object like Keats's "Urn" or a radical investigation of the limits of language as a signifying system? Is the poet channeling the crystal to access its message or is the crystal channeling the poet, drawing language from him to fill its colorless emptiness? Is it dictation or improvisation? Is the poem a record of its own crystalline growth or does it capture the process of consciousness itself?
The Crystal Text refuses to resolve the questions it raises but rather inhabits its various possibilities simultaneously, resulting in one of the major works of late 20th century American avant-garde poetry. This new edition includes a preface by poet and scholar Peter Gizzi and an afterword in which Coolidge discusses the text with poet Jason Morris and City Lights editor Garrett Caples.
Associated with the New York School and subsequently inspiring the Language Poets, Coolidge remains one of the most singular and original American poets of our time.