Buildings, landscapes, cultures, ways of life:
this is a history of the end, and after.
As the economic crisis drags on, the poems in Utopia Minus document sites that have become all too familiar—from half-constructed corporate headquarters to foreclosed homes. Drawing from source texts as varied as Whitman’s Specimen Days and Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, these poems direct the gaze to relics of American economic and social histories: abandoned factories in the poet’s native city of Newark, NJ, or an old concrete foundry in Austin, TX. The poems in Utopia Minus document the relics of the Great Recession—from half-constructed corporate headquarters to foreclosed homes As a whole they ask the reader to see a monument in the “last crop between the tollway and the condos” and to consider the stories inscribed as well as erased from our landscape.
Academy of American Poets Notable Book of 2011
Top Books of Poetry in 2011 by Coldfront Magazine
Praise for Utopia Minus
“What a wildly intelligent, learned poet Briante is, in this biography-autobiography of the American body and soul around 2010, witnessed (and lived) with such bite, understanding, and sorrow.
“Utopia Minus is located in a recognizably American city (stripmall, Starbucks, chainlink) at a recognizable moment (the year of the Dixie cup, the year of the orange construction cone), yet it also contains the energy of all that has made that city—every brick, every leaf, every utterance, every poem. Susan Briante is a poet of fierce intelligence and passion, and these poems pulse with playfulness and moral outrage.”
“Briante is a detritus artist, a gleaner working in the banal of the contemporary world, molding the pieces she finds into vivid mosaics. In Utopia Minus Briante claims her lineage, mapped through dried out gutters in which real human bodies, somewhat uncomfortable but very much alive, float upon a raft made of reassembled bits of downcycled American cities, east mating with west, big colliding with small.”
This second book by Briante (Pioneers in the Study of Motion) is rooted in an interrogation of the built landscape and backyards of capitalism, a panorama in which birds still fly but are as inexorably drawn to the lights of the local metroplex as is the traffic. Hers is a charged mode of perception rife with a political implication that does not exclude emotional directness nor wry humor ("Oh Sunglasses Hut we hardly knew you!"). Despite reoccurring fragments from the poet's daily life, it is perspective that aspires to the anthropological, and the well-attuned observations of the culture's detritus seem to prove the notion, elucidated by Robert Smithson in the epigraph, that rather than being built on the grounds of ruins, the sub-divisions and strip malls of the late century and beyond are themselves the original ruins, without history, decaying even as we occupy them. … this book finds an urgent language for the world in which we live. (Apr.) Read here.
“These poems push against their margins, just as Briante pushes against the margins of her world and of herself. 'How does a tree move when it is angry?' she asks. 'I want to be angry like that.' Sometimes, yes, she is angry, but she is never moralizing. Hers is a cultivated anger, informed by sorrow and longing, by personal and cultural memory.” Read here.
“Susan Briante has written a bold second collection that tackles issues plaguing the American landscape and, even more urgently, the American people. Utopia Minus challenges notions of industrial and social progress in emboldened poems, fearlessly examining the plight of current American culture and even addressing the wars in the Middle East. These poems seethe with a silent anger and worry for the future.” Read here.