Because I sometimes like to ignore my emails for days and allow my eyes to flit across them absorbing no word or meaning along its path, I started reading Anna Crews’s Magnum Ego in complete, rapturous ignorance. I was sitting in my friend Jana’s café watching her work in that sultry French way she does, both reticent and ardent, as she brought me my order: a coffee served in a soup bowl and a chocolate croissant. At the exact moment I scrolled from page 12 to 13 – wherein I found the line: “Imagine a very flaky croissant made out of dry skin.” – I was easing stray pastry skin into my mouth. It was magic.
Sometimes what appears magic to one does to no one else; each of our hearts churns in peculiar ways to rhythms of our own creation. Something happened to me reading the flimsy digital pages of Magnum Ego and when I had finished, I was certain of two things: I will never again look at a croissant the same way, and Anna Crews is a genius.
The book appears like a magic show: short, explosive, seemingly effortless. I read and re-read its entirety in 10 mesmerizing minutes punctuated only by sighs and stifled laughter. When I finished, I picked up the phone and called my editor. I raved. I recited lines. When I finally fell quiet again, my editor told me Crews was born in 1995 and then we both almost cried.
Magnum Ego stands as one of 999 other books in the publishing blowout that is 1000 Books by 1000 Poets. Brought to fruition by the collaborative efforts of the LUMA Foundation and newishly launched 89plus, the two-month long series marks the beginning of a 3-year collaboration between the two foundations. Where the non-profit LUMA Foundation gives the mooring such a massive endeavor needs, 89plus acts the part of the rebellious teen: inspired, forward-thinking, ballsy. In fact, until the creation of 1000 Books, the 89plus project had spent the previous year solely in research, conducting workshops and panels across the world, accruing and distilling information by which to launch the series. Co-founded and co-curated by Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the multi-platform research project sets out to investigate the innovations of the post-1989ers, looking for the stylistic and conceptual patterns in which our culture is distilled. In its description on the 1000 Books page, 89plus says:
“Marked by several paradigm-shifting events, the year 1989 saw the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the introduction of the World Wide Web, and the orbit of the first Global Positioning System satellite. Positing a relationship between these world-changing events and creative production at large, 89plus introduces the work of some of this generation’s most inspiring protagonists.”
Culled from over 50 countries and six continents, the poets of the series belong to the first international attempt to study “global poetic production of an emerging generation”. Authors of not only their books but the visual presentation, each of the teen-dreamy poets has determined the content and length of their books. In Anne Crews’s Magnum Ego, the presentation is that of short, haiku-like observations interspersed with texts closer in quality to short stories than to traditional poetry. Others include abandoned medical texts, redacted sentences, poems that slip in incessant streams down the page like water. Some make up less than a thousand words when gleaned together from the disparate pages, others are thick and weighty, their concepts spanning hundreds of pages. All are fascinating. The profundity of banality, the collapse of syntax into the seemingly syntax-less world of the internet, the patchwork lifework of which the books are made: it is the poetry of the brave new world, made by those brave enough to see there is one. **