Sunday, August 18, 2013


I wanted to write this post last night but got too tired after wasting an enormous amount of time trying to get my scanner to work so I could have an image of the cover of this book to open with, because the only one available on line is cropped to the extent that it misrepresents the book's look. And I couldn't get my scanner to work, I think, because I got a new WiFi airport and they're not connecting, and I can't seem to get them to connect (and yes I tried reinstalling the printer installation disc but it's incompatible with my upgraded Office operating system etc. etc. etc.)...

So, I've put a self portrait by Doug Lang above instead. I also can't figure out how to get the accents on the "e"s in the title of Doug's new book, which is also in all lower case. Oy. It's a shame too because the book design is beautiful (by Susan F. Campbell), but you'll have to take my word for it. The shape is square, almost 8x8 inches, necessary because the poems in derange (accents on the "e"s and the actual title not italicized) are wide, despite being sonnets.

The sonnet form is totally reinvented in the most extraordinarily innovative way in Lang's derange (accent on the "e"s etc.). So much so that it is high on my list of the most unique books in my library. Lang has been one of those poets and writers who publish extremely sparingly, and except for his first book, the novel FREAKS, published in 1973 by a commercial paperback publisher (New English Library) his work has come out from relatively obscure small presses. Including this latest book (Primary Writing in Washington DC).

But among aficionados of alternative poetry (or whatever term we use now for poetry that is not what the general public thinks of when they think of poetry) Lang has always been a deeply admired but too well-kept secret favorite. Full disclosure, I've known and admired and been a friend of Doug's for decades now (as I am with the people who were able to get him to put this collection together and help publish it, but also as I happen to be with thousands of poets and writers so it'd be pretty difficult to avoid writing about folks I know personally), but I have plenty of creative friends whose work I am not afraid to criticize harshly.  If I didn't know Doug Lang I'd still love and admire his work, especially this latest book.

The gift Lang gives his readers in derange (accents etc.) is not just his reinvention of the sonnet form, but using every approach to reinventing how the content of these sonnets could be created, from found writing and sampling to acquisition and excerpting to original content with parody, homage, scholarship, tips-of-the-hat(s) and more, often fragmentary, never seen before in sonnet form and all structured by juxtaposing these techniques and many others with often seemingly arbitrary frames determined by what also often seems like chance or arbitrary determinants.

Ah, there's hardly a language for what the variety of techniques seem to be, at least not for me. I can't reproduce the look of many of these sonnets here because most of the lines are too long for this computer format unless I were to reduce the type to unreadable (for me). But I'll try to give you just a few examples of some of the various approaches Lang uses for these sonnets (and where the lines are very short you can assume they are part of the line before).

For instance in one he just inserts "yo"s into Shelly's "Ozymandias" sonnet to get lines like these:

"Yo, yo, I met a traveler from an antique land, yo,
Who said: Yo, Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert, yo. Near them, on the sand, yo,
Half sunk, yo, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,"

etc. bringing it to life in an entirely new way with an engagingly provocative and ultimately profound new emphasis and meaning while remaining true to Shelly's original intent. And making the technique seem deceptively simple and obvious, despite it's never having been done by anyone else before (to my knowledge).

Or in a similar tactic in his "Paradise Dude Sonnet":

Of man's First Disobedience, dude, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, dude, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, dude, OMG, and all our woe,"

etc. But the amazing thing about this collection is it is not a one-trick or two-trick but an every-poem-a-new-trick pony. Too much to possibly convey in this short post. But here's a few more examples of some lines that hopefully give an impression of the variety of approaches:

Doctor Uyemura says I have OCD NPR BFF & OMG
Like a Coen Brothers movie
A craze is different from a crack in that it can continue to support a load


netanyahu tectonic barbecue has had his own stumbles veterans were angry boats of
asylum-seekers ozawa fickle regions hijack defects maoist livestock guangdong
punishable by death venue stone-pelter insurgency 60% stooges more than anywhere
else in the world. Whole Foods Market, P Street NW, January 8 2005 10:38 a.m.:


It isn't that I don't understand why people talk
about what is a poem and what isn't a poem, or,
whether a poem is good or bad, or,
whether a poem has meaning or...

whatever. Sometimes these concerns seem to me to be
kind of like class prejudice or even race prejudice.
By which I mean that if you don't like my work, you are
a fucking racist.

There's so much more, anyone interested in what's new in poetry or writing in general should check out Doug Lang's derange (accents etc.), or anyone who just digs unique books.

[PS: Thanks to Tom Raworth, another creator of unique poetry, for scanning and emailing me the cover after the above was first posted:]


JIm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JIm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Miles said...

Wow, the excerpted lines you posted are a total revelation!

tpw said...

Dear M:
Thanks for posting this.
One way, I think, to include accents is to get the word the way you want it in whatever word processing program you use, then cut & paste it into your post. dérangé

William McPherson said...

Brilliant! Dérangé (not at all dérangéd) and review of same.

Chris Mason said...

I'm glad you wrote about Derange', Michael. So far it's my favorite book of poetry of the 21st century. It's consistently surprising, funny, and moving. Best sonnets since Ted Berrigan.

Lally said...

Yay. Glad to see Doug's work getting such a great response.

Doug Lang said...

Thank you so much for this generous review of Dérangé. The book wrote itself in three bursts (represented by the different sections), and it was a very exhilarating process. Beginning with Terry’s response (Terence Winch) to the work in progress, through to your review, it has been extremely gratifying to have readers respond so passionately. In fact, you were part of the two most important supporters of the book’s momentum, the first being Terry, and the second being the audience when I read with Ron Silliman at St. Mark’s in November, 2011, and you were there that night. After so many years of endless gratification from the work of others, including
Yours and the work of other friends, I am so happy to have been able to give something back.

Lally said...

You're more than welcome Doug and I am happy to see you getting the recognition you deserve, at least among those in the know.

Mary Winch said...

If “dérangé” by Doug Lang left you longing for more, then look no further as the biography of the great Doug Lang by Susan Campbell is now available at:

The cover of “dérangé”, as you noted is by artist and unique biographer Susan Campbell whose word and image details of Doug Lang’s poetry, dalliances and friendships are a must see, feel and read (in whatever order it may strike you).