On the Literary Means of Representing the Powerful as Powerless

On the Literary Means of Representing the Powerful as Powerless

Steven Zultanski

Price: £5.99+p&p
ISBN: 978-1-907468-33-9
Year: 2018
Edition: 500
Pages: 64pp
Binding: softback
Illustration: text only
Dimensions: 115x175mm

 On the Literary Means of Representing the Powerful as Powerless is an essay-poem about the ability of literature to pull the rug out from under the appearance of authority. Presented as a non-exhaustive catalogue of techniques for depicting the inherent weakness of power, it continually strays into critical commentary, sinuous digression, and bodily autobiography.

Authors (and filmmakers) discussed: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Joanna Russ, Antler, Gabriel García Márquez, Rosario Castellanos, Elfriede Jelinek, John Cassavetes, Krishna Baldev Vaid, Trisha Low, Jane Austen, Sam Greenlee, Chantal Akerman, Doris Lessing, Émile Zola, Margery Kempe, Robert Glück, Claire Denis, Patricia Highsmith, Alice Notley.

“Literary Means is a brilliant treatise on power and the uses of literature. It is nicely reasoned and Steven Zultanski doesn’t so much risk the obvious as aspire to it, as the Latin poets did. ‘And all I’m trying to say, which I’m sure you already know….’ But his examples have so much reach that Literary Means attains a far-flung poetry. Zultanski fashions this act of communal enquiry—What oft was thought—with ‘examples’ that make a kind of community—but ne’er so well express’d—and most of all through his performance of the genre itself, the tender intimacy of the narrator and his insistence on locating the conversation and the transmission of stories inside their social realities. Literary Means is also an autobiography, and surely it is the tenderest analysis of a brutal subject. ‘People are at odds with themselves, and power is never coherent.’”

Robert Glück

“I’ve been haunted by the last sentence of Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, the story of a cruel cacique’s demise, ever since I read it: ‘He fell with a thud against the ground and began crumbling as if he were a pile of stones.’ Think of literature as a mano a mano between authors and the authority figures tackled in their texts. As artificers of their characters and their fates, authors tend to prevail—they know more than the powerful. But here, Zultanski’s author undermines himself in both poignant and darkly comedic ways. His stomach growls, he falls short, he dispenses pointed yet obvious insight. Moreover, he claims to have written the book in one day, with examples culled from memory! How could his random taxonomy not be unreliable, or incomplete? He resists turning himself into an authority on authorities as represented in literature, and that’s this book’s poetry.”

Mónica de la Torre

Steven Zultanski is the author of several books of poetry, most recently Honestly (BookThug, 2018) and Bribery (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014). His critical writing has appeared in 4 Columns, Art in America, frieze, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Mousse, and elsewhere. In January 2017, an art exhibition inspired by his book Agony (BookThug, 2012) entitled You can tell I’m alive and well because I weep continuously was shown at the Knockdown Center in Queens, New York. He lives in Copenhagen.

On Wednesday 17th October 2018 Zultanski will deliver a guest lecture at Leeds Beckett University as part of the prestigious INSIDE/OUT speaking series. From Saturday 13th-Saturday 20th October Steven Zultanski will be poet-in-residence at Shandy Hall in Coxwold, North Yorkshire.

On the Literary Means of Representing the Powerful as Powerless

  • Categories →
  • Publications
Back to top