Proper Names

Reviewed by Sarah Williams

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Begging to be read out loud, like a roll call. Michael Ned Holte’s Proper Nouns is forty fillless pages of names, one listed after the other.

 
Corky McCoy
Yves Tanguy
Tycho Brahe
Lady Elain Fairchilde
Leigh Ledare
Lois Lane
 

Completely without context and equally weighted, not alphabetical, and not all real people the names breeze through. You linger briefly on past association and general biases towards sound, plucking out and collecting the recognized names. A unique experience for each person who picks it up, reading the constellation of listed names charts a specific cultural consciousness.

You find some friends:

 
Nikki Darling
Sarah Rara
Amy Howden-Chapman
 

and artists you’ve only met on the gallery walls:

 
Kalup Linzy
Sol LeWitt
Liz Magic Laser
 

Highlighting the array of relationships we have with names–from those we equate with flesh and blood personalities to those that have transcended into an idea more than a person, perhaps representing an aesthetic (Ruscha), or a body of ideas (Žižek), or a character (Hennessy Youngman).

 
You pull out the names of public figures you know from TV:
 
Kate Middleton
Brigitte Bardot
Metta World Peace
 

or your bookshelf:

 
Italo Calvino
David Henry Thoreau
bell hooks
 

or the radio:

 
Notorious B.I.G.
Lil’ Kim
Too $hort
 

It reads like a stream of authorial consciousness, which has some overlap with your own. With like-sounds, rhymes and thematic connections uniting, you adopt a cadence, a rhythm as you read and by the end the list of names becomes a poem, a song, a prayer.

 

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Michael Ned Holte, Proper Names, (Golden Spike Press, 2013)
Cover and interior images from Proper Names

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