Neighbour Procedure by Rachel Zolf
Coach House Books, 2010
Rachel Zolf’s powerful follow-up to the Trillium Award-winning Human Resources is a virtuoso polyvocal correspondence with the daily news, ancient scripture and contemporary theory that puts the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine firmly in the crosshairs. Plucked from a minefield of competing knowledges, media, and public texts,Neighbour Procedure sees Zolf assemble an arsenal of poetic procedures and words borrowed from a cast of unlikely neighbors, including Mark Twain, Dadaist Marcel Janco, blogger-poet Ron Silliman, and two women at the gym. The result is a dynamic constellation where humour and horror sit poised at the threshold of ethics and politics.
“This is an extraordinary collection of poems, and yet I hesitate in saying this, since something happens to poetry in these pages, so I no longer know what precisely poetry is or can be. In fact, Rachel Zolf brings an incredible range of readings to bear on the poetic line. If there is a mixing of media within these lines, there is also a proliferation of tongues, an effort to let language collide to produce a more acute and anguished experience of war. Israel and Palestine recur in the fits and starts of meditation offered here where language follows unpredictable sequences and finds itself suddenly stuttering in its vowels. There is mourning, rage and some brave and difficult effort to speak across traditions, languages, to avow loss, to expose the colder rationalities of occupation and war, and a linguistic fathoming of the ethics of proximity. This is courageous and moving work that feels like the struggle of a lifetime condensed into potent lines.” —Judith Butler
“Neighbour Procedure is the most realized conceptual-modular book of political poetry I’ve read to date; Zolf’s language-motion escapes several nation-states’ culture capture zones while re-threading the very notion of ‘self’-representational purposively.” – Rodrigo Toscano
“This book is a sharp, painful cry against the tyranny of the monologic.” —Charles Bernstein