New article at Philological Quarterly

Philological Quarterly 98.4 (2019) has graciously published my discussion of Prynne’s commentaries. The essay is a bit cramped, but contains things about philology, commentary, and tries to tease out some theoretical convictions lurking behind Prynne’s adaptation of that form. Here’s an excerpt:

Such commentaries represent a renovation of commentary as critical
practice in English studies. Neither their interdisciplinarity nor their den-
sity is unique; critics as different as Erich Auerbach, Giorgio Agamben,
Helen Vendler, and Jacques Derrida have shown what can be done with
and through commentary. But Prynne’s commentary is of an extreme kind:
a radicalized version of close reading that frames the poem as a locus of
convergent and contradictory tendencies whose sedimentation supersedes
both author and reader. Despite the brilliant adumbrations in the margins,
the commentary retains its marginality by making the poem into a cur-
riculum. Never has the aesthetic autonomy of the single poem been so
challenged than by so intensely focusing on a single poem.

Old Biz Orders

This book collects poetic work written between 2014 and 2018, including Story OneThe Meritocrat, and The Last Shyness. It includes a new sequence, as well: the titular Old Business.

From the editors:

The poetry of Ryan Dobran begins in a congenial, observational mode and crystallizes swiftly into an engrossing lattice of voice and affect, a prismatic language that pivots unassumingly through shades of the quotidian and the disenchanted, the earnest and the circumspect, the ingenuous and the vatic. It is a recognizably contemporary poetry: familiar discourses and lifeworlds made uncanny by an exacting realism, conscientious of the creaturely and all-too-embodied travails of a rapidly immaterializing modernity, persistently shot through with fleeting glimpses of those distributed, elusively disciplinary forces—of law, finance, technology—that everywhere impinge locally and yet evade global apprehension. At the same time, there is yet something about Dobran’s clear-eyed view out onto the actual existing world that bestows a kind of proleptic clarity on the Skinner box of the present: the poetic defamiliarization at play is not the techno-stunned alienation of modernism but something older and more stoic, comic, or forgiving, not didactic and yet in its composure quietly instructive.

Order from Golias Books directly. Or, if you wish, from SPD (available soon).

Old Business Sees the Light


Golias Books will publish my first full-length collection of poetry in spring 2019. It collects three previously published (or in the case of Story One: pseudo-published) collections along with a new one called, Old Business, which has actual poem titles. Actual. Poem. Titles. Here’s a provisional write-up from the generous editors, Lawrence Giffin and Chris Catanese:

Ryan Dobran’s Old Business comprises four long poems: three chapbook-length works that have seen limited release by small presses in the UK—Story OneThe Meritocrat, and The Last Shyness—along with a suite of new poems published here for the first time. The volume represents an attentive, accretive phenomenology of the contemporary, of the widening gyre of modernity’s immaterialization and its redoundings on the body. The four pieces represent a progression in Dobran’s work over time but are each in their own way equally finely tuned: both in the sense that each conceit is a sensitively calibrated instrument and that the resulting readings are crafted and critical, lacking didacticism and yet wryly, quietly instructive.