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Verse and Worse

Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989-2009

By Steve McCaffery
Edited by Darren Wershler
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Poetry
Series Laurier Poetry Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554581887, 90 pages, January 2010
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554582983, 90 pages, January 2010


The Dangers of Poetry (for Italo Calvino) by Steve McCaffery

Maybe you don’t like this poem or perhaps you don’t want to read it perhaps you should do something else like wash last night’s dishes or watch TV if I were you I’d try reading a good book or even start to write one but perhaps you haven’t stopped reading this poem just yet while you’re wondering what else you could read or perhaps your interest in this poem has miraculously changed maybe you’re enjoying it or finding it a challenge or perhaps you’re simply thinking it would be a waste of precious time having read it so far to not read it to the end or perhaps there's nothing you can do because perhaps this is a class that you can’t get out of or the start of a conference you've paid a lot of money to attend or perhaps its a punishment prescribed in a minimum security prison you’re now in for five or even ten years or perhaps reading this poem has induced paralysis and you can’t move not even to blink your eyes or perhaps you believe it can’t get worse but it does get worse and you think all these thoughts again and then compare this poem to the start of Italo Calvino's novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and that the two might be related perhaps you think that this poem was actually written by Calvino under the pseudonym of Steve McCaffery and then you think that this might be the poem Calvino didn’t write but wished he had and by this time an entire week has passed and you’re still at your desk at the office because you never went home and perhaps you couldn’t have anyway because a friend called to tell you that your house burned down and all your pets and family burned to death because you were still reading this poem.

Ephemera by Steve McCaffery

What's this? Looks like a millennium for maximum embarrassment and quite proteiform in its lack of politesse an obsequious curling to the new philosophy of counter subterfuge but whatever it's doing it's doing it in secret perhaps it's just shot a pragmatist through an organ of transmission, or got hired as a transitory hieroglyph it looks too paranoid to have never read the Bible or is it an island shy enough to not become an archipelago or perhaps a genetic mutation right in the walls of the divine city. Imagine it saying that before it came to grammar as a micro-particle of order it was a thought in the head of William Blake. Reverence always beckons emblems to its New Atlantis to reconnoiter the several incapacities that seal a fate as noise.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Verse and Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989–2009, selected with an introduction by Darren Wershler

Foreword | Neil Besner

Biographical Note

Introduction | Darren Wershler

A Theory of the Lyric

from Teachable Texts

from Theory of Sediment: The Curve to Its Answer

A Child’s History of Rhetoric Caught as It Happens

from The Entries

A Few Donuts from an Hommagiste or: Bad Modernism

from Some Versions of Pastoral

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Coleridge in Calgary (ars poetica 4)


from Lag

from An Effect of Cellophane

Oedipus Meets the Abstract Machine

Suggestion but No Insult

The Dangers of Poetry (for Italo Calvino)

The Lone Ranger in Arcadia

Restricted Translation with Imperfect Level Shift (after Basho)

The Poem as a Thing to See

The View from Here

Tyrolean Night

A Map

Correlata for a Cryptogram

The Logic of Six

First Vico Meditation

Second Vico Meditation

Digital Poetics

Prior to Meaning

Afterword | Steve McCaffery



Verse and Worse: Selected and New Poems of Steve McCaffery 1989–2009 presents texts from the last two decades of work by Steve McCaffery, one of the most influential and innovative of contemporary poets. The volume focuses on selections from McCaffery’s major texts, including The Black Debt, Theory of Sediment, The Cheat of Words, and Slightly Left of Thinking, but also features a substantial number of previously ungathered poems. As playful as they are cerebral, McCaffery’s poems stage an incessant departure from conventional lyrical and narrative methods of making meaning. For those encountering McCaffery’s work for the first time as well as for those who have followed the twists and turns of his astonishingly heterogeneous poetic trajectory over the past four decades—this volume is essential reading.


"The wait. ..was worthwhile, as [WLU Press has] released a volume that captures the essence of McCaffery. "

- John Herbert Cunningham, Prairie Fire

"The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming. "

- Paul Milton, Canadian Literature, 193, Summer 2007