The Totality for Kids
Author: Joshua Clover
Publisher: University of California Press (2006)
The Totality for Kids is the second collection of poems by Joshua Clover, whose debut, Madonna anno domini, won the Walt Whitman award from the Academy of American Poets. This volume takes as its subject the troubled sleep of late modernity, from the grandeur and failure of megacities to the retreats and displacements of the suburbs. The power of crowds and architecture commingles with the alienation and idleness of the observer, caught between “the brutal red dream / Of the collective” and “the parade / Of the ideal citizen.” The book’s action takes place in these gaps, “dead spaces beside the endlessly grieving stream.” The frozen tableau of the spectacle meets its double in the sense that something is always about to happen. Political furies and erotic imaginings coalesce and escape within a welter of unmoored allusions, encounters, citations, and histories, the dreams possible within the modern’s excess of signification—as if to return revolutionary possibility to the regime of information by singing it its own song.
"The Totality for Kids is a stunning collection that charts the 'the modern and its endnotes,' as voiced in one Clover poem. There is no conceptual abstraction here without its color, motion, and syntax. The poems form an urban and linguistic landscape of contemporary life, in many ways, written in the shadow of Adorno who himself wrote in the shadows of the modern. In this brilliant volume, the fragmented world of a late and lost modernity has its own moving and lucid affect, its forms of aliveness. We encounter here an enormous clarity of language in the service of a poetics that brilliantly queries our historical moment in and as form."