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16 November 2008

Now Available: Mark Cunningham's _Body Language_

Mark Cunningham
Body Language

ISBN: 9780977901975
Prose Poetry. 5"x7", 136 pages
Perfectbound, tête-bêche

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Two full-length collections of prose poems contained in Body Language, one titled Body (on parts of the body) and one titled Primer (on numbers and letters), together form a diptych investigating the body in language and language in the body.

Advance Praise for Body Language

In Mark Cunningham’s asymptotic collection, two discreet texts, Body and Primer, form a provocative, loopic continuum in which prose poems “defining” body parts (The Spleen, The Pituitary Gland, The Pimple, The Thumb) mesh with an abecedarium/cipher concerning topics as various as fate, reality, and phenomenology. With its trope of clue-like instruction and unique, flip-book embodiment, Cunningham‘s book creates a kind of hybrid detective f(r)iction, an intrepid mash-up of high and low cultures in which the reader is as likely to encounter Rilke and Proto-Sinaitic inscription as Lacan, Film Noir, The Three Stooges, cell phones, higher mathematics, binary thought, and Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. Cunningham pitches with surprising clarity the most abstract meditations (“The sperm cell is the first zero. The vagina the second. Wait—before you floated in the placenta (the third), your mother floated and your father floated in theirs, and before them their others and their fathers . . . . You get dizzy, as in that moment in Citizen Kane when Kane pauses after leaving his wife’s bedroom and image after image recedes in mirror reflecting mirror. Another thing about DNA: if space curves, so does time,” for example, from “O as a Beginning”), offering in almost reportorial style a (d)evolutionary mix of anachronistic, equally relentless somatic and figurative explorations of the body (“a paradise of sorts”) and the mind. Northrop Frye called a riddle “essentially a charm in reverse . . . the revolt of the intelligence against the hypnotic power of commanding words.” Cunningham’s work moves in this direction; as Frye would put it, “Poem and object are very quizzically related: there seems to be some riddle behind all riddles which we have not yet guessed.” These poems are not the mere game-playing of an extraordinarily gifted and restless intellect; stalked by pain, fear, guilt, and the burden of awareness,, they can also be tender, betraying a capacity for happiness: “I rarely talk about myself, but I’ll tell you this: one of the best days I’ve had was when I passed a cinema and decided right then to see The Cameraman. Another time, I switched restaurants at the last minute, and met an acquaintance there, and ate with her, and three years later we’re still going out.” As obsessed as they are with the ironies and processes of mind and body, the poet’s concern is ever with the mysteries this human armature holds up: “life itself.”

—Lisa Russ Spaar, author of Satin Cash and Blue Venus, and editor of Acquainted with the Night and All That Mighty Heart: London Poems.

About Mark Cunningham

Mark Cunningham lives in central Missouri. He is the author of 80 Beetles (Otoliths, 2008) and two chapbooks from Right Hand Pointing, Second Story and the forthcoming nightlightnight.

Excerpts from Body Language

* from Primer, "G"
* from Primer, "O as a Beginning," "A," "M," and "X"