MadHat Press

Poetry and Heresy by Joe Safdie

Praise for Poetry and Heresy

In these essays, Joe Safdie seeks “an expanded notion of the secular, one that contains its own transcendence and deserves the honorific of heresy.” A passionate, deeply informed critic of Olson and Dorn, a writer who, like his heroes, offers a “constant argument against the calcified and traditional academic notions” of poetic and religious dogma, Safdie is required reading for anyone concerned with the poetics of the New Americanists, or for anyone engaged in thinking through the relationship of poetic and religious sensibilities in our time.

—Norman Finkelstein


Is there an outside to surveillance capitalism? To media-speak? To present presentism? To reality that is whatever power says it is? What does “outside” even mean when everywhere and nowhere seem to be interchangeable? In Poetry and Heresy, Joe Safdie traces a genealogy of “deviant insiders” (“heretics”) who have worked the language to hold what he calls “embedded cognition”—thought charged with attention to chance, circumstance, and history. These essays bring to present contexts the uncharted cartographies and “energized maps” of Ed Dorn, Charles Olson, and Ammiel Alcalay as well as the arts of satire and the non-canonical anthology. Along the way, Safdie reminds us that the Muses arrive with re-call—"memories charged through with thunderbolts.” This book is for anyone who misses that hit of the real.

—Miriam Nichols


The poet is the only pedagogue left, to be trusted,” Charles Olson wrote, and in these essays by poet Joe Safdie, we meet one of our finest and most trustworthy poet-pedagogues. Whether he’s exploring his experiences with Ed Dorn, outlining insightful readings of Charles Olson’s poems, crafting an indispensable defense of satire, or leading us through writing exercises designed to help students see, describe, and navigate our deranged society, Safdie turns our eyes again and again to the world. Throughout, his humorous, inquisitive, and deeply knowledgeable voice is ever-present – full of wit, misbehaving, instructing, giving pleasure – but above all moving us to comprehend the complexity and beauty of reality, the secular divine universe. Contemplating the power of the present in his essay “Olson and Finding One’s Place,” Safdie emphasizes Olson’s phrase “This is eternity: this now,” and these essential essays on poetry, satire, the muses, and teaching are for now, for eternity.

—Josh Hoeynck

Charles Olson and Edward Dorn, central figures in Poetry and Heresy, perceived an erosion of lifeways, a disappearance of any commonly shared “now,” submerged under social relation, history, or personal attachments. Not just our technologies—artificial intelligence / forms of social media—but a negligence of attention and observance has created these fissures between us and reality. As tonic, I return in Joe Safdie’s writing to a feeling of excitement I encountered when reading for the first time Olson, Dorn, and so many others closely or loosely associated with Black Mountain College, that hub of mid-century experimental activity. The rhizomic strains of writing extended by these writers changes an understanding of what poetry can do in the hands of any person, from where they stand. Safdie’s words recall orientations to reality that require a vigilance of attention; the heretical impulse he identifies in these figures of outsider poetry amounts to a dogged refusal of the conditions of life demanded by various disciplines of State or social order. Through Safdie’s generous words, I find a voice of companionship in the dark.

—Dale Smith

Poetry and Heresy
by Joe Safdie

$23.95, paperback, 276 pp
ISBN-13:  978-1-952335-73-0


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