ISBN-10: 0872869040
ISBN-13: 9780872869042
Publisher: City Lights Books
Publish Date: 11/14/2023
Dimensions: 0.00" L, 0.00" W, 0.00" H

Published by City Lights

The Crystal Text

Preface by: Peter Gizzi
Afterword by: Jason Morris
Afterword by: Garrett Caples


Price: $13.27


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.

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In The News
  • Performance by Clark Coolidge reading “Just About Out of Nowhere,” accompanied by composer Alvin Curran, during Other Minds Festival 23 – Sound Poetry: The Wages of Syntax
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Praise for Clark Coolidge's The Crystal Text:

"There's a majesty in this book with a crystalline center that refracts and reflects this extended, wandering meditation on what it means to write and to be in the world. And there is also an ease and a luminous beauty and such a depth that this book remains resonant years after its original publication."–Juliana Spahr, author of That Winter the Wolf Came

"The Crystal Text is at once a philosophical poem in the lineage of Lucretius and a word-jazz excursion in the spirit of Monk and Lacy. Here, the poet's stylus becomes a drumstick that patterns a nonlinear logic of fleeting reflections, performing cymbal-clash as symbol-crash. The result is a unified field theory of music, thought, and poetry. The reissue of Coolidge's long out-of-print masterpiece deserves a standing ovation."–Andrew Joron, author of O0

"In The Crystal Text by Clark Coolidge, language is restored to its original grace. And what is the origin of language? Is it innovation? Does it subvert while instructing? This poem brings the written word to life. It was written in the 1980s, serving as a deep source for poets and all those who cherish literature. The poet spars with history, memory, and what it means to be fully human. The informative afterword is a rare treat."–Neeli Cherkovski, author of The Crow and I

"Like the mouth to a cave or mine, The Crystal Text offers the best entry to Clark Coolidge's writing. Here's a sui generis American poet, an eager amateur geologist, conversing with a mineral gifted to him, locating the surfaces along language that allow light's passage. Impossible to imitate, Coolidge tests the hardness of syntax, scratching new registers upon it to clarify human perception and the ways we lend it language."–Evan Kennedy, author of Metamorphoses

Praise for Clark Coolidge:

"Clark Coolidge is a one-man avant-garde."–Peter Gizzi, author of Archeophonics

"A long-time master of the jazzy long work."–Bernadette Mayer, author of Works and Days

"[I]f one merely lies open to it, Coolidge's arresting words will sink in and provide a seldom experienced refreshment. This is still true and the receding monumentality of his landscape enterprise is fuller today than ever before. We are lucky to live in the world he chooses to reflect back at us."–John Ashbery, author of Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

"In poem after poem he produces lines of abstract, bright, musical phrasing"–Michael Leddy, World Literature Today

"An inexhaustible writer capable of taking a subject, any subject, and improvising endless bebop glissandos around it."–Eliot Weinberger, author of Karmic Traces: 1993-1999

"Clark Coolidge is unquestionably among the finest and most legendary American poets of our time."–Irakli Qolbaia, Caesura

"Nothing can prepare you for the experience of reading Clark Coolidge's poetry. You can listen to Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk, and the Rova Quartet; you can read the Beats, and examine every Philip Guston painting; you can go spelunking and spend days staring at rock structures. You can even memorize every word of Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett and recite it all as a soundtrack to a black-and-white cowboy movie. These may contextualize some of the elements in Coolidge's work, but they will not adequately equip you for the heady mixture of intellectual pleasure, semantic frustration, and visceral musicality that Coolidge's work is likely to provoke."–Jake Marmer, Hyperallergic

"Coolidge subjects the comforting syntax of traditional lyric to a radical torque as a means of discovering new possibilities of song."–Aldon L. Neilson, Pacific Coast Philology

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ISBN-10: 0872869040
ISBN-13: 9780872869042
Publisher: City Lights Books
Publish Date: 11/14/2023
Dimensions: 0.00" L, 0.00" W, 0.00" H
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