The Attention Lesson
by PF Potvin
Publication Date: October 2, 2006
Available at Lulu for $12.75 (15% discount)
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Listen to PF Potvin read from The Attention Lesson on MiPOradio.
Read about PF Potvin:
Interview at Every Other Day
Article at Cadillac News
What People are Saying about The Attention Lesson:
"These poems wake up slumbering compartments of the brain. The Attention Lesson is a sleek fleet of uncompromising, compact, urgent prose poems that feel like freshly chiseled, postmodern petroglyphs. Each piece is an immediate, thrumming, palm sized passion play: substantive and mysterious, awash in off rhymes and spanning the human-animal-object continuum. Images, states of consciousness, facts, descriptions and sense perceptions all morph into and through each other in emotionally useful ways that seem new and surprising yet also quite recognizable. How does PF Potvin do this? Dear Reader: when you figure out his secret, will you write and let me know?"
— Amy Gerstler
"Potvin’s poems are generally written in whole sentences. He does not often rely on traditional poetic techniques, rather he employs two seemingly homebrewed techniques (apologies to James Joyce) for manipulating his tempo. The first is to conjoin two words, such as “elephantmasked,” “shookstill,” and “downswooping,” and the second is to eliminate the second word in a word pair when the omitted word is obvious. Supplying the missing words in brackets you get “sneak [attack],” “merrygo [round]” and “pave[ment]”. The conjunction of words serves to quicken the pace of reading while the omission of words creates a mental stumble that retards it. Both moves come across as playful and off hand, which is refreshing given the weightiness of his political and character-building content.
—Jeffrey Eaton at Open Letters, read entire review here
"Potvin’s observances of the human experience, its common ritual, psychological effects, parade of ethos, and even the creation of our own mythologies and parables, stands as a reminder that the depiction of the human dilemma is indeed universal, comprehendible across continents and cultures."
— Michael Parker, MiPOesias, read entire review here
"Since these are prose poems, often of the somewhat surreal or comically askew variety, my first thought naturally was of James Tate -- except it turns out these poems aren't very Tate-like.
Potvin's prose poems are much more economical, number-of-words-wise, for one thing. More poem-like. Also they're less anecdotal; they tell stories, but they're doing more than that. For instance -- and this is what's most important to me -- there's art here at the level of the word and phrase that I admire."
— Matthew Thorburn, read entire review here
Two dogs are taped to the side of her bed. When she goes to class, the dogs come out of her picture. They are free to live when she is not around. In the winter, the dogs stay in the room and curl up on the floor next to the water coils. When spring rolls back, the dogs run their floppy ears through the yellow fields. In the summer, they frequent a certain ice cream parlor. On sunny days people like to stop, eat ice cream with their children, and pet the dogs. Sometimes the dogs even get a fallen cone. When autumn rolls around, the dogs can be found on the nearby river. They fetch and fetch whatever anyone throws for them. But she never bothers to throw. She just arrives home and goes about her business. One day she notices that white space has replaced the dogs, so she walks to the river to think things over. The dogs smell her coming and continue to retrieve sticks for a teenage couple. “Can I please have my dogs back?” But the couple refuses.