The Last Two Seconds

The same way that an EEG is the record of the brain’s electrical impulses, The Last Two Seconds is a record of a brain actively thinking. The EEG is raw data; the book is data encoded in language. The particular thinking captured by this book concerns the complications of being human in the 21st century. The individual poems are staged backdrops—scaffolding, scenery, makeup, props, and costumes—against which characters step forward to consider both the “real” world at this moment in time and the effect of that world on the construct we call a self. The characters include, but are not limited to: Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Francisco de Goya, Max Beckmann, Cleopatra, Virginia Woolf, Stanley Kubrick, Aïda, Joseph Conrad, Cyndi Lauper, a doll doctor, a nurse, a cat, a baker, and a Wall Street banker. Everyone has something to say.


This book is also concerned with time, not only as a lyric abstraction—Time with a capital T—but as this time, or rather, these times. The book considers the various ways in which the brain, that tangled mass of neurons, perceives time. And also how the brain makes sense of various elements of this present-day moment, where we are confronted by the risks, and realities, of nuclear disaster, species collapse, growing income inequality, religious fundamentalism, pollution, and vast landfills, among other things. Because time is a continuum—and the dividing lines merely imagined—to see this moment with any clarity, one has to look back to at least the beginning of the last century. This book has no answers but instead poses questions—about time, the brain, thinking, knowledge, power, and what it is to be a self in this world, or in any world.



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Mary Jo Bang's poetry is vivacious and at the same time mysterious. Its surface glitters with the sparkle that the brightest American writing has always given off, and in the depths it reveals a mixture of smoky, quickly complexities, a blend that is hers alone. Characters are driven to distress or exuberance by the fate she has prepared for them—their stories bloom on the page, ripen strangely, and quickly disappear. I love it."
—John Tranter



Graywolf Poetry Reading

AWP Minneapolis, MN

Thursday April 9 2015   12:00 pm to 1:15 pm 

Room 101 F&G, Level 1

(Mary Jo Bang, Katie Ford, Matthea Harvey, Nick Flynn)



© 2015 by Mary Jo Bang