Reviewed by Sarah Williams
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.
Lady Elain Fairchilde
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:
and artists you’ve only met on the gallery walls:
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:
Metta World Peace
or your bookshelf:
David Henry Thoreau
or the radio:
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.
Michael Ned Holte, Proper Names, (Golden Spike Press, 2013)
Cover and interior images from Proper Names