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Poetry by John Emil Vincent

Excitement Tax


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Excitement Tax

Dara Wier has written about Cheshirization:

“In nine poems whose tones, tempers, tonics and contents exquisitely mesh, John Emil Vincent carries on an extended conversation with any one of us who wishes to take up where what’s proposed poem by poem takes off into heretofore unexplored zones of our own. We frame what’s next as each new poem frames its contents in elegantly surprising, slightly raucous configurations.”

His previous books are critical. His first book, Queer Lyrics, was chosen as a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. Kevin Kopelson of The University of Iowa has the following to say about the book:

“Poetry lovers should be writing love poems to John Emil Vincent and not just queer ones. For he has done something very difficult and completely necessary: performed both formalist and thematic analyses of deliberately ‘difficult’ modern poetry with a view to considering connections between sexual identity and poetic closure. Even readers with an aversion to such poetry will find themselves taken gently by the hand and led through this forbidding terrain by an unusually considerate yet formidably erudite critic. Let’s hope this isn’t Vincent’s final word on the subject.”

It wasn’t his last word on the subject. Vincent’s second book is John Ashbery and You. His later books approaches Ashbery’s recent, difficult, critically neglected poetry with an eye to the pronoun 'you' and an ear to the construction of Ashbery’s oeuvre in the form of discrete book projects.

Susan M. Schultz of the University of Hawaii writes:

“Vincent is a wonderful guide to Ashbery’s work; he has read the books over and again, and his own style often resembles Ashbery’s, ranging from high academic discourse to slang, from poetic to prosaic diction. This is an ambitious work, moving as it does in several directions, and it is eminently readable.”

His most recent critical book is an edited collection of essays about the poet Jack Spicer, entitled After Spicer.

Jay Parini, Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College says:

“After Spicer is an important collection of essays on a figure of increasing interest to all readers of American poetry. Vincent has gathered a range of (mostly) young and certainly vibrant thinkersalmost all of them poets themselves, as well as critics. I found myself stimulated at every turn, glad to have read this work, and newly interested in the poetry of Spicer.”

And Brian Reed at University of Washington writes:

“After Spicer is a first-class introduction to one of the premier American poets of the mid-twentieth century. It covers everything from detective fiction to his gay rights activism. Afterward you will know why so many of today’s poets consider him an indispensable precursor.”

Excitement Tax is Vincent’s first book of poetry.


Critical Comment

"Today's book of poetry was only eight or nine poems into John Emil Vincent's Excitement Tax and we knew that Vincent should drop his other misadventures and write poetry full time.  Of course it won't feed the cat, but.  But, Vincent can seriously burn.

Excitement Tax starts off sprinting and never pauses for breath. We get introduced to "Weaselbird" who seems both a symbol and a foil, but mostly a tool for the spontaneous glee that comes bounding out of every line in these poems.  Weaselbird is quite the character.  So was Gulley Jimson.

“Nothing like poetry when you lie awake at night. It keeps the old brain limber. It washes away the mud and sand that keeps on blocking up the bends.
Like waves to make the pebbles dance on my old floors. And turn them into rubies and jacinths; or at any rate, good imitations.” 
 Joyce Cary, The Horse's Mouth 

John Emil isn't showing all of his cards all of the time, no good gambler would. Today's book of poetry isn't suggesting Vincent is borrowing anything from Mr. Cary but rather his Weaselbird is a bird cut from the same cloth as Mr. Gimson.

At Breughel Elementary

Here everyone does their part to maintain the punctuated
equilibrium: The kid facing the wall, thinking: how
innocent whoever invented hell. Then that kid: a knot
attracting other knots. The kid hung italic on her shoulders.
The girl who will build a toy empire. The boy who will
rule it badly. Two friends whose peculiar brand of grace
is to be wholly forgotten. Two, who, coy, hunker in the
gutter of the gathering. They will be sculpted in butter.
One who points like a duke trying to point like a proverb.
One whose very face says: my pappy gave it me. One who
smiles wisply to forestall the ink lines of the meat chart.
One fogged with breath.

A good two feet below eye level, they wield their glossy
shields against self-esteem. Young the way eloquence
outlasts insight. Each so easily imitated as to be one of
a kind.

The mystery: which will have sweetness beat out of him,

and which in.

...

Erudite is a word that Today's book of poetry has to look up in the dictionary every time we use it. John Emil Vincent is the Vincent Black Shadow of gloriously glib glottis glee — Mr. Vincent is Erudite. This poetry compels you to turn the page just so you get to hear more of John Emil Vincent's engine running. Today's book of poetry thinks Vincent jazzes it up like a 60s French cellar full of Chet Baker, Anita Baker and a rumbling Studebaker Avanti.

Vincent isn't shy about graphic exploration of sex, sexuality, sex acts. As Elizabeth Bachinsky said of John Emil's poems: "like a box of candy," "sweet surprises." Of course some of these sweet surprises are bittersweet, some of them might even sting.  Vincent is talking about gender straight up and with a clear voice, a matter-of-fact resonance to it all. Vincent knows that pandering always reads fake and there is not a false moment in Excitement Tax."

– Michael Dennis, Today's Book of Poetry

“In Excitement Tax, John Emil Vincent has written a collection of prose poems with complex skeletons, each phrase connected to its context. He manages tone shifts precisely. Poems follow through on such premises as inventing an instrument “inspired by my daycare choir, that sort of presses, almost steps on, children,” dialogue between Walter Wimple Weaselbird (one of the book’s characters) and Socrates, and a child who “never wanted to rehear a single story.”

“King Midas’s Idiot Brother” takes King Midas out of his fairy tale and imagines him doing a kind of alt-comedy routine in which “he’d pose as the suicides of famous writers and the audience would guess how.” But a familiar reality creeps in, the narrator notes that “relevance is a bitch,” and King Midas must do a bit about Carver instead of Chekhov. Even in such fantastic ideation, we can be dulled down, taxed. This poem ends with an invitation that carries throughout: “Behold the life of the mind.”

—Tess Liem, Montreal Review of Books, Spring 2018

 

Author John Emil Vincent

JohnEmilVincentAuthor

 

Author Biography

John Emil Vincent is a Montreal-based poet, editor, and archivist. He’s taught literature, queer theory, and poetry writing at Concordia and Queen’s in Canada and at Wesleyan, Haverford, and University of Miami in the US. He and his partner, Luis Loya Garcia, emigrated to Montreal in 2010 to get married and escape anti-immigrant laws and sentiment in the US.

Vincent earned his BA in Religion and Literary Studies (French) from Williams College where he worked with Louise Glück. We went on to earn an MFA from Warren Wilson College (in North Carolina) where he worked with Heather McHugh and Larry Levis among others. Toward the end of his MFA he started his PhD in English across the state at Duke University where he studied under Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Michael Moon. He was among the earliest cohort to graduate specializing in Queer Theory. While at Duke he published an essay on Swinburne and whipping in Eve’s collection Novel Gazing and co-authored an article on Latinamericanism and “My Own Private Idaho” with José Estaban Muñoz.

He recently earned his Masters Degree in Library Science (Archives) from Simmons College (in Boston). He has worked doing preservation work for John Ashbery in his home in Hudson, New York, and has worked helping organize James Tate’s papers and books after his recent death.

He served as Editor-at-Large for the Massachusetts Review, where he edited a double “especially queer issue” packed with queer literary luminaries and a special issue celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UMass-Amherst Program for Poets and Writers. He’s served as poetry editor for the now-defunct Swink magazine and issue editor for tinywords (a web-based haiku journal).

He has published poems in jubilat, Denver Quarterly, BlazeVOX, Slope, Spork, failbetter, Drunkenboat, and many other journals. A number of his poems appeared in an anthology of new gay poets, entitled This New Breed, edited by Rudy Kikel (Windstorm Creative 2003).

With Factory Hollow Press he recently published a chapbook Cheshirization containing 9 poems from Excitement Tax.


Excitement Tax, John Emil Vincent, 97 pp., 5 x 8, Poetry, November 2017

ISBN: 978-1-927599-44-0 (paper) . . . $18.95

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