A review of

Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture

by Lisa Robertson

Central question: How is a harbor like a sidewalk?
Format: 288 pp., paperback; Size: 4-1/8" x 5-7/8"; Price: $12.95; Publisher: Clear Cut Press; Objects depicted in some of the book’s color photographs: two white poles (waist-high, set mysteriously on a beach), the Vancouver Public Library, a ten-by-ten grid of tract houses, an enormous ball of orange yarn; Objects depicted in some of the black-and-white photographs: a pine forest; a Parisian bed; a trellis; Representative entries from the index (compiled by Francophile poet Stacy Doris): “desanctification of time,” “doubled as dancehall,” “end of sunlight, the real,” “pronoun caked in doubt,” “public gorgeousness.”

The nominal author of these twenty short prose works, the Office for Soft Architecture, is really the poet Lisa Robertson, a Vancouver-based experimentalist whose previous writings have proven that difficult—even near-impenetrable—verse can wink, and dazzle, and charm. (Especially recommended: Debbie: An Epic.) Robertson’s Office writes prose about, or around, or prompted by social history, urban geography, and visual art, especially but not only in Vancouver. Her fascinations generate Occasional Work (catalog essays for galleries, commissioned journal articles, reactions to special events) and Walks (urban stroll-pieces, dérives, pages from a Rough Guide in a dream). Thirteen of the former, seven of the latter, assemble in this palm-sized, vivaciously illustrated paperback, whose pictures include cute postcards, Eugene Atget photographs, and even a paint-tint test.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt teaches at Macalester College in Saint Paul. His books are Popular Music, a collection of poems, and Randall Jarrell and His Age.

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