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My Vocabulary Did This to Me

4.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  764 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
In 1965, when the poet Jack Spicer died at the age of forty, he left behind a trunkful of papers and manuscripts and a few copies of the seven small books he had seen to press. A West Coast poet, his influence spanned the national literary scene of the 1950s and 60s, though in many ways Spicer s innovative writing ran counter to that of his contemporaries in the New York S ...more
ebook, 508 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Wesleyan (first published November 30th 2008)
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Apr 22, 2009 CA rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who the FUCK are these people giving this book less than 5 stars!!!?

Anyway, FOR CRIPES SAKE, if you're reading this and have never heard of Jack Spicer before, I wish I was YOU. Meaning I wish I could read these poems all over again like a pretty young virgin. I would LOVE to be Spicer's virgin, eager with spoon and knuckle, lopsided and cock-eyed from the strain of the constant WHACK deep into these poems!


M. Sarki
Jun 14, 2013 M. Sarki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

It is my hope that at least one person will be glad I wrote this review. There will be no need to thank me. First off I want to express the great respect I have for the mind of Jack Spicer, for the seriousness in which he took his poetry, and the demands he placed on his students for them to do their very best work. It is also important to note that reading both the poems and lectures together concurrently offers more to the student of his verse and helps
Mar 26, 2013 matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Very glad and grateful that my oldest friend (a pretty dynamite poet in his own right, as it happens) has worked and hung out with Peter Gizzi for a long time now, who happens to be one of the editors of this collection.

Spicer's a guy who, it seems, is just starting to really get his due. In his own lifetime, the poor guy was often reduced to penury and obscurity, aside from the recognition and respect of a few other mostly Berkeley-based poets and small-press publishers.

Throw in some alcoho
Dec 11, 2015 Dov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems
I don't want to give this a rating. I am not sure why I did. Some things are even more beyond the "5 stars" than others. What makes a poem good? Imagine rating every poem with stars. If every poem ever written were in a big database and one read it and rated it between one and five stars. At least people would be talking about poems more.

It will take a long time for me, coming back to his work and walking away and sitting in front of the puzzle pieces trying to get a few edge pieces in and then
Sigrun Hodne
Oct 18, 2012 Sigrun Hodne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Why I wanted to read Spicer?
What can I say?
Taste this:

Any fool can get into an ocean
Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
Dec 12, 2008 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well. Look I don't even know what to say. Will the nearest people to Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian please hug them. Will the nearest people to thirty dollars please hug this book. All people who have not read this book before one year has passed will not be my friends anymore.
Robert Lashley
Aug 04, 2015 Robert Lashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spicer is ignored by many beat-o-phobes who see any one involved in the SF School, New York School, and Beats as part of the same gang of nonsense avant-gardeists. That is a god damm shame.

I see his work as a progression of the conversation that Charles Olson started. One of the most moving subtexts of The Kingfishers was in the internal parodies of the crap pastoral poems so popular in American literature for a hundred years. Not just for it's snark, but it's underlying subtext, that the horro
Jun 03, 2010 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dear Lorca,

I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader could cut or squeeze or taste—a real lemon like a newspaper in a collage is a real newspaper. I would like the moon in my poems to be a real moon, one which could be suddenly covered with a cloud that has nothing to do with ithe poem—a moon utterly independent of images. The imagination pictures the real. I would like to point to the real, disclose it, to make a poem that has no sound in it but the
Ted Burke
Apr 20, 2009 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Vocabulary Did This to Me
The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer
Edited by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian

I am just finishing the “must read” poetry volume of the year, “My Vocabulary Did this To Me”, an anticipated republication of the poems by the late Jack Spicer, edited by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian, and I have to admit that Spicer’s writing has me momentarily forgetting my prejudice against poems about poetry and poets and allowing myself to be knocked by the author’s third-rail wit
May 19, 2015 Jsavett1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began reading Spicer and Robert Duncan and Frank Stanford all around the same time. I'm having surrealist overload.

Though I hate to do this because Spicer has his own very unique voice, I think he'd be okay, were he here, with this comparison: Spicer's poetry is the love child of Whitman , Lorca, and Ginsburg. There is a yearning for the sublime and Spicer's own sense that he is multitudes that is present from Whitman. He's got Lorca's freedom with language and darkness; and finally, there's G
Peter Landau
Aug 27, 2014 Peter Landau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who said that the right book will find you at the right moment in your life when you need it most? Someone did, but I can’t find the quote, which I heard Bookslut founder Jessa Crispin say on a recent podcast. Maybe its her quote, which wouldn’t surprise me, being that she’s my favorite literary critic. Whether I’m imagining the quote or just mangling it beyond Google’s software ability to uncover online, it’s true to my experience.

That was certainly the case with MY VOCABULARY DID THIS TO ME:
Jan 16, 2014 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant poetry and extremely essential must have.
Christina Rau
Oct 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This collection spans the career and intriguing life of Jack Spicer, and the title is, according to the book's notes, the last thing he said as he died. Quite dramatic. The collection travels into the absurd many times, and each time, it's brilliant (and mostly confusing, but still, brilliant). If you don't read it all, then read these gems:
"Berkeley In Times of Plague," "A Girl's Song," "Portrait Artist As A Young Landscape," "A Lecture In Practical Aesthetics," "A Night In Four Parts," "Imagin
May 25, 2009 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Once Spicer's voice gets in yr head, it is impossible to get out.
Sean A.
i'm not giving this text a rating because one minute i felt very close to loving the text and then shortly thereafter somewhat exacerbated by the obtuse bitterness of it.
NEways, lets look at what Spicer is working with, in my opinion, since i've both read and listened to and really took to heart his lectures as a (slightly) younger poet. Spicer thinks of poetry as a series of, really, martian transmissions invading the poet's consciousness and compelling him to scribe these transmissions as po
Matt Lee Sharp
Sep 01, 2013 Matt Lee Sharp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I began reading this idly at about two in the morning. A huge mistake. Spicer's poetry is difficult to put down. I finished this book in a daze with a couple dozen nearly indecipherable notes scrawled into a notepad. This stuff works in mysterious ways. It does all the wrong things and still keeps you engaged. Jack Spicer is rightly excluded from the big poetry movements of his era (I think) partly because he so often foregoes real artistry for some pretty bald, ugly, and clearly autobiographica ...more
Sep 29, 2010 Ezra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
growing up in berkeley, and having some adolescent interest in both romantic and modernist poetry, i should have heard of jack spicer. but i hadn't. i cannot explain this. anyways i ran into his poem "Orfeo" somewhere (on a fucking bus maybe ?!?!) and i immediately bought this on the internet. it is great. it is a collection of all JS's published poetry as well as a lot of notebook stuff; as with all such completist editions, it contains a lot of things that i'm sure the author would never have ...more
Dec 20, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
How could I give this 4 stars? Am I some kind of idiot? Well, I think this reflects my frustration with collecteds in general. This was my first introduction to Spicer and I was struck by how familiar his voice was to me already--filtered as it has been to various degrees through many, many contemporary voices via the speaky casualness of the line, the turns of the language into pranky nonsense, sharp juxtapositions between high and low speech -- "Dead branches. Leaves / unable even to grimly se ...more
Mar 16, 2015 and rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems
this book completely changed the way i think about reading and writing. at times this book was too weird for me, i found it uninviting- the metaphors are so strange and far-fetched that i couldn't get into them at all... but he tells us "it does not have to fit together. like the pieces of a totally unfinished jigsaw puzzle my grandmother left in the bedroom when she died in the living room." i couldn't understand why the hell spicer has caused such a fuss. but after giving it a good amount of t ...more
Stuart Cooke
Dec 30, 2014 Stuart Cooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wesleyan should really do a Selected. This is a wonderful Collected, but for those who aren't Spicer fanatics it's a little overwhelming. A nice, punchy Selected could open him up to so many others.
Jun 08, 2009 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This guy is weirder than he reads at first. His poems, really, are as lyrical and joy-
and loss-driven as any great poet's, but his interior patterning-- his dream-
language-- was morphemes and phonemes, rather than stone and river. He found
by pure feel what language poets and ethnopoetics poets and Black Mountaineeers
found by theory or by less humble interior journeys. The whole set called Homage
to Creeley
and the one called Language completely flattened me. Wonderful.
Jan 28, 2013 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I wasn't familiar with the poetry of Jack Spicer, so this has been a treat. Take a look especially at "After Lorca," in which he invents a letter from Lorca (actually a forward that Lorca is supposed to have written), as well as letters to Lorca and "translations" of Lorca poems. Read too his "Letter to Robin" in "Admonitions," in which he calls for poetry that's connected, poems that "echo and re-echo" against each other rather than individual lonely lyrics.
Gabriel Oak
Jun 09, 2014 Gabriel Oak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-and-drama
A great volume introducing the major works of one of the Berkeley Renaissance's driving engines.
Carmen Montopoli
Aug 09, 2014 Carmen Montopoli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, adult
This is great poetry. It's all (well not all, but largely) about how annoying it is to write, how the words are mortal enemies sometimes, and how it never works out like you plan. About the irritating beauty in it.

I wish I could talk to Spicer, for ten minutes. Or more accurately, commiserate with him. He seems like a guy I'd like.
James Debruicker
I picked this up EXCLUSIVELY on the basis of the title, and was pleasantly surprised. Some funny poems, some sad poems, some really experimental poems, and a wonderfully confused letter from Lorca. Definitely worth checking out.
Jun 09, 2014 Terence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This took me a while to read, the language is so rich and poems kind of sneak up on you. You'll remember a line months later. 1000 thank yous to Kevin Killian for the introduction and the gift. What a great collection.
Nov 08, 2008 Mary marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Robert and I just got to peak through this fresh from the printers at Peter's house and it is great! I'm especially excited about his letters that have been included and so many gorgeous poems that are not anywhere else. Lovely!
Jan 11, 2009 Julian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am just starting it but how did Spicer get overlooked?
His work is beautiful - much better, accessible, real, ... than almost all of his contemporaries.
Katie  Kurtz
Apr 28, 2012 Katie Kurtz marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Putting down picking up leafing through wondering over caught by a phrase amazed by a line starting again leafing forward turning back marking pages
Mike O'Shaughnessy
Extraordinary, prescient poetry. Colorful, self-aware and sure. He seemed to have emerged in full bloom from a crack in the sidewalk.
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  • "A"
  • The Maximus Poems
  • The Sonnets
  • New Collected Poems
  • My Life
  • Collected Works
  • Recyclopedia: Trimmings / S*PeRM**K*T / Muse and Drudge
  • The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy
  • The Collected Poems, 1945-1975
  • The Book of Frank
  • Deepstep Come Shining
  • The Opening of the Field: Poetry
  • The Outernationale
  • Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2005
  • Collected Poems
  • Next Life
  • Modern Life
  • Company of Moths
Jack Spicer (January 30, 1925 - August 17, 1965) was an American poet often identified with the San Francisco Renaissance. In 2009, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer won the American Book Award for poetry.

Spicer was born in Los Angeles, where he later graduated from Fairfax High School in 1942, and attended the University of Redlands from 1943-45. He spent most of h
More about Jack Spicer...

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“At least we both know how shitty the world is. You wearing a
beard as a mask to disguise it. I wearing my tired smile. I
don't see how you do it. One hundred thousand university
students marching with you. Toward
A necessity which is not love but is a name. ”
“In hell it is difficult to tell people from other people.” 5 likes
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