Rodrigo Toscano

1999 • 55 pp. • $10.00
ISBN: 9781882022373

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

In prose, the novelist Douglas Woolf once said verb tenses are like gears that will have driven their truck payload over the mountains (or that streak across the Bonneville Flats). In poetry, the grammatical determinacy of verbs may be likened to an unacknowledged engine in a more constructivist sense. Rodrigo Toscano’s Partisans works the mechanics of language to unveil the conjoined agency of human labor and grammatical component. Toscano shows how an ethics of the present tense, one that is at once always contingent, always mediated by the precise valences of language, is anything but a uniform aporia of surfaces and disavowed meanings. Rejecting both univocal materiality and its supporting idealist investments, he brilliantly renews a tradition of poetics based in the structuring work of grammar that begins with Louis Zukofsky and continues in Kit Robinson’s The Dolch Stanzas and Alan Davies’ Name. This work is an ethical disquisition “As against / The set relations” that revises much current doxa about the nature of linguistic agency.
—Barrett Watten

“Rodrigo Toscano’s poetry — positing a relation of ‘one’ (of the person) to force/world/class/transformation or control by the outside — moves that relation itself to be that transformation (to be ‘one’ as ‘their’ ‘us’ ‘we’). The relation he makes is language-flicker of motion: ‘Those objects, she said, subjectify one.’

His Partisans manufactures space — is a relation of times, gleams as future/past, that is ‘historically-soluble’ — “WHAT WILL CAPITAL’S CULTURE BE TIMING (then)? — ‘WHAT WILL MANUFACTURED SPACE BE DEFINING (then)?’ That is, ‘then’ is the present: ‘But to dream now/of something/that isn’t that…’

The individual is a worker as a ‘wordworker.’ Toscano places ‘one’ in relation to that ‘force’ or ‘world’ as an intentionality. There is a simultaneity created by his language’s motion that is a contemplation that is an occurrence itself. Line/word as motion/shape becomes a motion, also perceptual motion, that moves ‘the terrain’ (language and world).”
—Leslie Scalapino

“In this collection the alarms are coming from all directions, but a song is floating through. What is the song doing there? ‘Is it commemorating resistance?’ Yes, but in a completely unsentimental way. The lyric necessity behind these poems is the elastic and quixotic form that resistance takes.”
—Fanny Howe


Rodrigo Toscano’s latest books are DECK OF DEEDS (Counterpath Press, 2012) and COLLAPSIBLE POETICS THEATER (Fence Books, 2008). His poetry has appeared in Best American Poetry, and in McSweeny’s “Poets Picking Poets.” He was a 2005 recipient of a New York State Fellowship in Poetry. Toscano is also the artistic director and writer for the Collapsible Poetics Theater (CPT). Toscano has worked in labor politics and environmental justice movements for over fifteen years.


Present Perfect Progressive

Through weeks of exchanges
of speech

(and not only speech)

Between persons
toward objects

Between products
toward futures

At a time like this
but of the past
toward up ahead · here
up ahead · here


As in a tangled net

These attempts at inquiry
as blades

Or treats
as samplers
of wordwork

For handlers
of wordwork


(if not comedy)

An extracted surplus
go somewhere

A surplus
cause something

Who’s been verbing
around noun-fieldsFlouting history, rambling spleen’d
< a sign of Timidity >

Fumbling segues, trancing sex’d
< a sign of banality >

Spouting ethics, shunning touch
< a sign of Celebrity >

Sorting concepts, draping needs
< a sign of Obscurity >

Been reading “world”
through shards, reflexive
famed “fragments”

(as compelled to)


how could one have them translate
mine to yours
yours to mine
ours to theirs
theirs · to who’s?

(and why would one care to know)

Collective Desire

what can be sparked
by something like
how have you been?

how have you been
is an initial
seemingly containable
question / greeting