(Omnidawn Publishing 2013) 
Daniel Tiffany may be better known for his literary criticism than for his poetry, but this new collection of poems, Neptune 

Park, his most gorgeous yet, is likely going to change that. Admittedly, the adjective “gorgeous” is a dangerous word to apply to poetry, hinting as it does at a certain flashiness, a will-to-enchant that can be both excessive and superficial. Yet the glitz of Tiffany’s poetry is somehow possessed of the power of a Hegelian world-spirit coming to consciousness of itself, asking “How Many Days Can You Live on Vicodin and Frosty?” Coinciding with publication of this collection of poems, Tiffany’s latest critical work is entitled My Silver Planet: A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch, and it’s not difficult to see such subject-matter infiltrating the form and content of his own poetry. Invoking Tinkerbell, Tiffany writes in Neptune 

Park: “I wonder what’s the matter / now, Tink / just broke her wand on me.” In a previous book of criticism, he approvingly quotes Hermann Broch: “Kitsch is the element of evil in the system of art,” and goes on to assert that kitsch “hovers like an enigma on the horizon of literary poetry, synthesizing the dangers of vulgarity, sentimentality, and enchantment.” Kitsch, according to Tiffany, “preserves (in opposition to the rationalized avant-garde) the magical dimension of art—including its enigmatic relation to terror— which must be suppressed to establish the dominant features of literary poetry.” Tiffany deliberately allows this “suppressed” dimension to rise to the surface of his own avant-garde poetry: “From what rustic and debauched minds / do you inherit / / such a pitiful neighing of diamonds?” The “precious and sometimes- lurid sensibility” that Tiffany, in his book Infidel 

Poetics, ascribes to Shelley’s work (“a prototype of kitsch”) can also be ascribed to the poems collected in Neptune 

 Park: “I think I just scared a bird with my dick.” For kitsch, Tiffany argues, “appeals to infidel tastes,” i.e., those lacking fidelity or loyalty to the supposedly decorous conventions of high literature. As Tiffany sees it, the vaunted “lyric obscurity” of modernism is “traceable to a dark repertoire of infidel forms: riddles, thieves’ carols, beggars’ chants”—forms that turn their back on bourgeois standards of comprehensibility. This secret history of the affinity between modern poetry and kitsch, extended in Infidel 

Poetics to Mallarmé’s engagement with Mother Goose, becomes traceable also in Tiffany’s own poems, which are (otherwise inexplicably) replete with samples of street slang and nursery rhymes. Of course, it is a grave error to read a poet’s work as a mere illustration of that same poet’s critical theory; not even Silliman’s work can be reduced to the precepts of the New 

Sentence, nor does Breton’s poetry conform entirely to the strictures of the Surrealist Manifesto. But it would be equally mistaken to pretend there is no relation, especially when the writer’s center of gravity has been located in the criticism, as Tiffany’s has up to now. Indeed, the style of Tiffany’s criticism, which dresses its concepts in phrases such as “counterfeit gloom,” “black wonder,” and “enigmatography,” is itself gorgeous and forms a continuum with his poetry. Nonetheless, when it comes to compression and dislocation, poetic language can outperform critical language anytime. Consider the sudden shift of register in this couplet: “They perish forever / without even telling me!” Or the sheer surrealism of a line like “Tiger stirred a mill of noon prayers.” The convulsiveness of the poetic act finally exceeds its concept, even here. Here is a poetry with the capacity to discover, in the midst of its “tingeltangel,” “Some kind of alternative mathematics / camouflaged between seven and eight.” Distinct from the flatness of Flarf, a form which also mobilizes kitsch for avant-garde ends, Tiffany’s poems enact a vertiginous crossing of Gothic depths (“This late-romantic region / where the borders are clocked / from dusk to dusk”), perhaps seeking a neo-Orphic explanation of the Earth: “Behind the guide, / tinted by the Earth’s // oblique veins, / a starlet appears.” The poems collected in Neptune Park depict, with some abandon, the nightlife of language, an inverted world where glitz reveals its profundity, a “transneptunian” zone giddily traipsed by a starlet named Dido. “Her favorite advice: / be Brechtian. / With earrings & adjectives.” 

                                                                                         —Andrew Joron 



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