The Seven Voices

Lisa Samuels

1998 • 88 pp. • $10.00
ISBN: 9781882022328

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

“In The Seven Voices, ‘each poem is an abstract correlative of a subjective experience, a ‘refraction journal.’ Everything means exactly what it says.’ Lisa Samuels writes as if basing language on something it is not; or as if (all) language, having no content, makes the motions of something else. So she deliberately voids the language as a daring means of creating an alternate that isn’t in language as if outside by being the same as language. The writing shapes ‘A tonal synchrony’ in which the senses can correspond to something else (rather than to that synchrony). This correspondence occurs awkwardly by ‘inaccommodation with the very shape.’ Yet the synchrony holds so that ‘that singularity is a violation of perspective.’ She says about The Seven Voices, ‘The title arises from Gnostic mysticism: the voices are angelic entities inhabiting the Treasury of Light. Apparently there are seven voices.’ And ‘nothing that happens is possible, so continuity and destructuring coexist across the falls.’”
—Leslie Scalapino

“Lisa Samuels takes the risks of her mentor, Laura Riding, in experimenting with poetry ‘underneath / the lying tree.’ Often, the resulting trace of her inquiry borders on the absolute in its unrequited syntax. Shapes result, some of the most evocative spatial allegories for meaning since Frank O’Hara’s ‘Biotherm.’ The skin of poetry is what ‘you’ feel in the play of its absence. There is nothing procedural in this writing. It is necessity, forced and yielding a suspended judgment in the made relations of language, an available truth.”
—Barrett Watten

“‘Ordinary grace’ becomes ineluctably sufficient in Lisa Samuels’ first collection of poems … as if each of its seven voiced veils opened into rippling, then melting perceptions—language emblazoning itself.”
—Charles Bernstein


Lisa Samuels has a PhD from the University of Virginia and currently teaches literature and creative writing at The University of Auckland in New Zealand. She publishes essays and edited work on poetry, theory, and critical practice. She is the author of several books of poetry—including WILD DIALECTICS (Shearsman Books, 2012), TOMORROWLAND (Shearsman Books, 2009), THE INVENTION OF CULTURE (Shearsman Books, 2008), and THE SEVEN VOICES (O Books, 1998)—as well as a creative nonfiction book, Anti M, forthcoming from Chax Press. Her current projects include an essay collection, Modernism Is Not Enough, an audio recording of TOMORROWLAND with soundscapes, and a modular novel experiment, Tender Girl. Having lived in various parts of the United States, as well as in Sweden, Israel/Palestine, Yemen, Malaysia, and now New Zealand/Aotearoa, she is interested in transculturalism, especially as embodied in language and the digitas.


One Hand Keeps the Furniture of Thought from Falling Over

to achieve a particular oasis
of thought, pay attention to the folds inside
one crevice of the wrist
it knows how to be one article of conduct
recognized in the breach
forestall an elemental
by achieving its complex form through an angry insist-
though it protests ence, instantiate
denial, recompense
it through a shadowing that makes itself

one finely shuddered momentary
when it shakes out the articles
that allow for several pictures
take to be imagined
and adjudicate its reasons
one here for there cements
an ache always detectable
though the wind hits it better when it’s wet
the shutters of intellect
flatten in the light when they hold

at all it is divinity you conquer
the very absence of a reasonableness
is proof
enough of all these compensations
I would choose
the consolatory status of half imagined
the fluid this desire moves
in suffocating angles of air
it finally can isolate a single turning part
by way of altering the mediators

those which allow the particles to be
themselves must be
dismantled every coefficient designed
to make the turn
a filled in balance to have the valency
of achieve held true