The Unreal City

by Mike Lala




Format: paperback
Published: July 2023

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ISBN: 978-1-946482-93-8 Categories: , , , ,

“In The Unreal City Mike Lala struts through our contemporary wasteland—detritus of culture and commerce strewn everywhere, day’s minutiae grown Dionysiac, allusion rapt in a visionary elusiveness—with poems that outpace the difficult history they also confront.” —Dan Beachy-Quick

“Mike Lala paints with the brush of epochs. Evoking a dappled synesthesia of melodies and movements. Guiding us through the visceral vertigo of a human among humans standing at the site of a collective impasse, our manmade abyss. The Unreal City is giving renaissance. The kind that might lead to actual enlightenment.” —Marwa Helal

Prior praise for Mike Lala

“Poetry only in that it announces itself as such: this is performance, myth creation, and rally cry.”  –Publishers Weekly

“A book that challenges and resists the vague accumulations of knowledge upon which regimes depend. A marvel of genre-straining performances.” —Joe Fritsch, The Fanzine

“Inventing, unnerving, and commanding… I can think of few collections more necessary or irreplaceable than this one.” —Julie Marie Wade, The Rumpus

“This is a remarkable first book—sprawling, generous, angry, delicate. Through borrowed language and staged dialogues, Exit Theater asks how individual experiences of violence combine with myth to create the collective present, where we peer out from the ‘gun cabinet.’ Lala’s book tears open the velvet cushioning.”  —Catherine Wagner

“How can modernism be transformed from a tool of state power into a politically radical weapon against the state, its imperialism, its culture of violence? If the question is canonical, Lala’s answer swerves away from the tired, standard strategies…Rather than placing his faith in, say, syntactic disturbance or radical parataxis—that is, in an acceleration of modernism’s own aesthetic strategies—he uses those strategies to describe himself, to locate himself in an economy of violence. And vice versa: he uses his personal history as a mapping tool, which allows him to sketch the contours of contemporary violence. In this sense, his work stages a rapprochement between many modes of 20th century writing: mingling avant-garde difficulty with confessional directness, polemical energy with aesthetic depth and beauty.” —Toby Altman, Entropy

“Lala has proven that form can do much more than we thought… In the Gun Cabinet is an astonishing act of formal accomplishment.” Simona Blat, The Brooklyn Rail

“Lala’s book ultimately stages a new question, perhaps an inevitable question, for aesthetic work in these times of violence: what happens when Chekhov’s gun becomes a drone, a melting ice cap, a toxic algae bloom? Causality, expectation, inevitability, narrative and poetic pleasure, all must be recast when confronted with the multiple time scales and emergent agencies, whether human or object, executive order or weaponized technology, that constitute the present.” —Paul Jaussen, Jacket2

A complex and multifaceted reckoning with literary and cultural lineage, Mike Lala’s The Unreal City locates our moment, and reimagines what we might make of it, by subjecting the history of literature to a radical détournement.

Mike Lala grew up in the western United States and Tokyo, and lives in New York. He is the author of Exit Theater (Colorado Prize for Poetry, 2016) and chapbooks including Twenty-Four Exits: A Closet Drama (2016), In the Gun Cabinet (2016), and Points of Return (2023). Lala’s sound installations, performance, and libretti include Whale Fall (2021), Madeleines: Tell Me What It Was Like (2020, with Iris McCloughan), Oedipus in the District (2018–19), and Infinite Odyssey (2018). He has presented work at the 92nd Street Y (for Anne Carson’s Tenth Muse), The Knitting Factory, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, National Sawdust, New Ohio Theatre, Pioneer Works, The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s, The Tank NYC, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Additional information

Weight 0.46 lbs
Dimensions 7.5 × 9.25 in